Vietnam’s Mu Cang Chai in ripe rice season a feast for the eyes
Every September, the terraced rice fields of Mu Cang Chai Town don a yellow coat as the paddies shift colors and eager tourists descend on the region.
The road to Mu Chang Chai includes the Khau Pha Pass – one of the Vietnam’s four greatest mountain passes.
Khau Pha is a maze of winding roads that zig zag through local villages and overlook the area’s stunning rice fields.
Each year, as the rice in Mu Cang Chai’s paddies ripens, local and foreign tourists travel over the pass on their way to catch a glimpse of the yellow rice fields.
Mu Cang Chai sits 2,000 meters above sea level at the foot of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range in Yen Bai Province.
Da Nang residents Hoang Diep and his wife, Ngoc Tram, both born in 1992, recently took a four-day trip to Mu Cang Chai.
The couple is well-known in the Vietnam travel scene for documenting their journeys through 40 of the country’s cities and provinces.
To get to Mu Cang Chai, Diep and Tram flew from Da Nang to Hanoi where they rented a motorbike and headed into the mountains.
“We choose Mu Cang Chai because it’s a great place to admire northern Vietnam’s towering rice fields. It’s also easy to get to and only takes a short time to visit.
“We’re both very busy, so Mu Cang Chai was the perfect destination for a short trip,” Diep said.
Mu Cang Chai enters the ripe rice season in autumn. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
The first major landmark on the road from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai, the Khau Pha Pass takes travelers into the clouds and through old growth forests near Lim Thai and Lim Mong villages, home to ethnic Thai and Mong people, respectively.
It is also the home of the Flying on the Golden Season paragliding festival.
After descending the Khau Pha Pass and reaching Mu Cang Chai, tourists can visit the terraced rice fields in Che Cu Nha, La Pan Tan, De Xu Phinh, and Lao Chai communes.
Of these rice fields, those in De Xu Phinh Commune are perhaps the most famous, thanks to their horse-shoe shape.
Meanwhile, the terraced rice paddies in La Pan Tan Commune look like mam xoi lon and mam xoi nho (large and small round trays of sticky rice).
These rice fields are only accessible by a narrow, steep road.
Those with great driving skills can attempt to reach the paddies on their own, otherwise they can park at the bottom and use a motorbike taxi service run by local people.
Forests, mountains, sky, and terraced rice fields create a poetic natural landscape. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
The best time visit the rice fields is in the late afternoon in order to take in the beautiful sunset. But it’s not only the sunset that is beautiful, so are the people.
“Conquering the roads around the rice fields was memorable. We passed a challenging steep road to reach the mam xoi lon-shaped terraced rice field.
"The local children were so lovely and nice. We met many people [in Mu Cang Chai] and they were all very helpful.
“As for food, I am a big fan of pickled bamboo shoots. I even bought some as a gift,” Diep shared.
Mu Cang Chai is full of terraced rice fields towering so high they appear to touch the clouds. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Travelers can take in a bird’s-eye view of Khau Pha Pass during the region’s annual paragliding festival. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Terraced rice fields stretch over the mountains. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
On the way to the terraced rice fields in the center of Mu Cang Chai, travelers can visit terraced rice fields in Tu Le, De Xu Phinh, and La Pan Tan communes. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
The rice fields in Mu Cang Chai are most beautiful in September and October. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Yellow ripe rice fields blankets every corner of Mu Cang Chai. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Terraced rice fields in Mu Cang Chai are strongly connected with Thai and Mong ethnic minority groups’ history and culture. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Visiting Mu Cang Chai during September and October, travelers can both admire the beautiful ripe rice fields and learn about the culture, custom, and history of local ethnic minority groups. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
An ethnic minority family returns home after work. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
The people in Mu Cang Chai work hard to live off the land. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Children play in the rice fields. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
A foreign traveler enjoys the peaceful and poetic beauty of Mu Cang Chai. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Tourists in Mu Cang Chai can catch a glimpse into the lives of local ethnic minority groups. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
The people in Mu Cang Chai are gentle, friendly, and willing to help visitors. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
In September, the upland area of Mu Cang Chai is colorful and romantic, with many kinds of flowers, such as buckwheat and wild sunflowers. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Ripe rice fields are relatively common but no place in Vietnam can surpass the beauty of Mu Cang Chai. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
Visiting Mu Cang Chai is a great way to mingle with the beauty of Vietnam’s northwestern region. Photo: Hoang Diep / Tuoi Tre
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