Once a year the people of northwest Vietnam sow their rice. Then, in the autumn, when the weather becomes ideal, with blue skies overhead and sunlight drenching the mountains, is the time to admire golden terraced rice fields. Many also like to watch people work in the fields, harvesting the rice, packing it and taking it home. Once you experience these stunning views you won’t want to leave and, every year, when the autumn comes, you’ll want to return to the mountains once again.
Terrace rice fields are a means of cultivating crops on sloping mountainsides and have been adopted by many ethnic minority people in the northwest for centuries. They are also beautiful man-made landscapes. As the harvesting season is here, The Guide introduces some of the best places to take in the spectacular scenery and take photographs.
Cao Pha Valley, Cao Pha Commune, Mu Cang Chai District, Yen Bai Province
Sandwiched between Nghia Lo town and Mu Cang Chai town, Cao Pha Valley has many rice fields as well as Khau Pha Pass, which is considered one of four most dangerous passes in Vietnam, joining O Quy Ho, on the road connecting Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces, Pha Din in Dien Bien province, and Ma Pi Leng in Ha Giang province. The scenery of the rice fields, together with the daily activities of the Lim Thai and Lim Mong villagers, are unique characteristics that attract visitors.
Cao Pha Valley is on National Road No 32, about 250 kilometres from Hanoi. Rice is harvested from mid-September, offering stunning views. Visitors can also go to Lim Thai village or Lim Mong village in the spring to discover more about local customs.
Mu Cang Chai town, Mu Cang Chai District, Yen Bai Province
The terraced rice fields in Mu Cang Chai town have been named as national heritage sites, including beautiful examples in La Pan Tan, Che Chu Nha, De Xu Phinh, and Thao Chua Chai communes.
Mu Cang Chai town has terrain of different heights, which makes the landscape particularly impressive. The time for rice harvesting also varies depending on elevation. The higher the fields, the later the rice ripens. The end of September is a common time for harvesting.
The town is also on National Road No 32, 280 kilometres from Hanoi, taking around seven hours to reach from the capital.
Sapa and Bat Xat Districts, Lao Cai Province
Sapa has long been a popular tourist attraction, thanks to its climate and deserted mountain scenery. It also boasts many terraced rice fields, in Ta Van village, Muong Hoa Valley, and Ta Giang Phinh village at the foot of Ngu Chi Son Mountain.
Located at a height of around 2,000 metres above sea level, Bat Xat district is covered in white fog year-round but has many ideal places to admire terraced rice fields, including Y Ty, Ngai Thau, Lao Chai, Thien Sinh, Khu Chu Lin and A Lu.
The road from Hanoi to the area is quite good. With the new highway from Hanoi to Yen Bai it now takes only five hours to get to Sapa. From Sapa it is then easy to reach other places by car or motorbike. It only takes half a day away to discover Y Ty, the furthest destination.
Hoang Su Phi District, Ha Giang Province
Hoang Su Phi is located in the west of Ha Giang province, 110 kilometres from Ha Giang city and around 350 kilometres from Hanoi. Its terraced rice fields are also national heritage sites, with many places to choose from, including Ban Phung, Ban Luoc and Ho Thau communes. The rice here ripens later, from the end of September to mid-October.
Thanks to its natural terrain, with steep mountains covered by clouds cutting through the rice fields, the local landscape during the rice harvest is one of the most stunning in the northwest region.
Those who have visited the northwest at this time of year admire the local people for their hard work, which results in magnificent rice fields that resemble a painting on an enormous canvas.