Terraced fields, ethnic culture make northern Vietnam village irresistible
Na Rang, a village of Tay ethnic people in Khuon Lung Commune, Xin Man District, has become a popular destination for visitors to the province, especially those on western Ha Giang’s backpacking routes.
I left Nam Hong Village in Hoang Su Phi District at 7 a.m. with Tam, a Tay man, and planned to visit Na Rang before heading toward the famed Bac Ha Fair 80 km away. We went along roads 195 E, DT 279 and DT 178 toward Xin Man District, with my jaws open at Ha Giang’s breathtaking beauty.
The Bac River gently twisted around the houses of the ethnic Pa Then people next to pristine forests. A bit further down was the Chung hydropower dam with the occasional small boat on the vast water surface.
I was surprised by the charm of Na Cho and Na Meo villages, which are on top of terraced mountains and surrounded by the Chung River’s emerald waters. Seeing the scenery, I wondered how an itinerant like me could have missed this hidden gem.
After three hours we reached Na Rang Village. Welcoming me were rows of stilt houses that must have been hundreds of years old. Tam took me to Leng Duc Quan homestay, named after the host, whose gentle welcome caused my weariness to disappear.
After some rest I joined the locals as they went to their rice fields. The lovely people taught me how to transplant rice seedlings, one of the unforgettable experiences of my travels. You should try it if you go there.
When night fell I was invited to share a meal by the host family, who had prepared mountainous specialties like jungle chicken, wild boar and wild mushrooms, to name a few. I sipped the corn alcohol as I enjoyed the mountain tranquility.
The next morning, after a quick chicken-noodle breakfast at the market, Quan, my host, took me for a ride around the village. We took well-paved routes between cliffs on one side and terraces on the other. Beneath were small houses set against palm forests.
Palm trees play an important role in the lives of the ethnic people here, providing roofs for their stilt houses and fruits for their desserts. I saw the trees everywhere I went in the village.
Palm trees in Na Rang. Photo by Xu Kien.
Quan made a stop at Muong Temple dedicated to the couple who founded the Khuon Lung area, now a commune. It is revered by the five neighboring villages of Khuon Lung, Na Chi, Quang Nguyen, Tan Nam, and Ban Ria.
The temple hosts an annual festival on the 17th of the first lunar month that is attended by people from across Ha Giang Province.
Quan took me along the road to Chan – Ngon Waterfall, the biggest in the area. It has three cascades, the highest upstream and very hard to reach and the lowest creating a small pond used by locals to bathe.
He said to reach the highest a person needs to be fit and have experience of hiking, and advised me against trying. So we had a dip in the pond, which, in the dry season, was gentle and safe. The pond remains natural as locals refrain from leaving any human traces.
The Chan – Ngon Waterfall in Na Rang. Photo by Xu Kien.
Quan took me to a small hut 30 meters from the falls where we brewed some tea and enjoyed the peaceful ambience with the sound of the water in the background and clear views of the surrounding terraced rice fields.
He then took me back to the village for lunch. After eating we headed out again to visit other villages. I cast my eyes to the lush green forests and tall mountain tops occasionally dotted with small houses. One after another ethnic Dao villages appeared before my eyes, a common feature being their tranquility.
After two days I left Na Rang reluctantly. The irresistible beauty of the small mountain village made me want to stay there for good.
*Transportation: Motorbikes are the most convenient vehicle to use in the mountains, offering greater flexibility than buses and cars. If you are leaving from Hanoi, you could take a Phuong Khoi bus to Na Rang. If you are traveling from the Bac Ha Fair of neighboring Lao Cai Province, you could hire a private car with local drivers since roads are too narrow for buses in some places.
Lodging: There are many homestay options in Na Rang. My recommendation is Leng Duc Quan homestay (tel: +84 83 706 2448), which offers great services for only VND100,000 ($4.3) per person per night.
Food: There are mountain specialties in Na Rang made from chicken, pork and vegetables, and ethnic corn alcohol. A meal typically costs VND150,000 per person, while breakfast costs a third of that.
Cultural experiences: Na Rang offers Tay ethnic cultural experiences like Then singing, Tinh string instrument performance and the Muong Temple Festival in the early part of the year.
Best time to visit: For a two-day journey to Na Rang, September-October is recommended since that is when the terraced fields turn golden with ripened rice or April-May, the field watering time.
Travel routes: Na Rang Village could be appended to a tour of Sapa – Bac Ha Fair – Nam Hong or Nam Hong – Ban Phung – Bac Ha, both of which take in many great travel routes in the mountains.
Na Rang Village is one of the top tourist attractions in Ha Giang Province. Photo by Xu Kien.
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