Life in the clouds

High in the mountains of vietnam’s north, y ty sits among splendid natural surroundings.

By Le Thanh Cuong on October 09,2017 11:32 AM

Life in the clouds

Photos: Hachi8

Y Ty commune in Bat Xat district in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai is so mesmerising that the famous travel guide Thrillist described it as a ‘mysterious treasure of Asia’.

It’s a beautiful spot, attracting tourists with expectations of ‘touching the clouds’ and ‘opening the sky’. Most are especially curious about Thien Sinh Bridge, at the border between Vietnam and China, Sung Trau (Buffalo Horn) Mountain Range, with interesting stories of the migration of the Ha Nhi ethnic minority people, the source of Sim San Stream, which provides a tasty type of alcoholic drink, and the poetic confluence of Lung Po Spring and the Red River, the latter of which originates in China. The flag pole at the border is popular among Vietnamese, symbolising the country’s sovereignty.

Visitors in the sixth lunar month, the height of summer, can witness the Ha Nhi people’s most special festival, ‘Kho gia gia’, which promotes the protection of the holy mountain and is held at the communal grounds of Choan Then village.

The festival begins with the killing of a buffalo, as an offering to the gods. The meat is equally distributed among families in the village, who in turn present it as an offering to their ancestors. Family heads then put the offering on a tray and place it on their heads as they carry it out to the forest to perform a rite to express their respect and gratitude to the gods, who are believed to protect and bless the villagers every day.

After the rite is finished, young men and women express their emotion through songs and the exchange of affectionate words. The festival is a special opportunity for visitors to experience part of the Ha Nhi people’s lifestyle and see the respect and gratitude they pay to the gods and their wish for a bumper crop, healthy farm animals, and a prosperous life.

Photo: Hachi8
Photo: Hachi8

Amid the cultural atmosphere, visitors can also see the Ha Nhi’s everyday life, which include pounding glutinous rice cakes, embroidering, and weaving, or take part in folk games like stick dancing, swinging and stilt walking. The cultural atmosphere takes on a new vibrancy when the market opens.

It’s a great experience to feel the change of weather and season in a vast area of pristine forests. Autumn provides a breath of fresh air all over Y Ty. The bright yellow ripened rice on terraced fields in the valleys makes autumn an enjoyable time. During a trip to the The Pa Valley, a national relic site, visitors can see masterpieces of terraced rice fields created by farmers or take in a traditional wedding of the Ha Nhi people, where the bride is taken across rice paddies to her husband’s home. And if you miss the ‘Kho gia gia’ festival, you can still see its spirit when local people perform it for visitors. Such activities and natural features make autumn a beautiful time in Y Ty.

The yellow rice shines in the sun and waves in the breeze. White clouds float above in different shapes and sizes between the blue sky and the yellow carpets of ripened rice. Fertile soil, rain, sunshine and human labour together produce golden grains of rice, which when fully grown look as if they’re just waiting for farmers to take them home.

Many groups of visitors arrive in Y Ty on motorbikes to take photos of the yellow fields, some of whom have been here before and consider each visit a special experience.

Mother Nature has given Y Ty treasures to offer to visitors. In addition to its fantastic ‘staircases in the sky’, visitors can also seek out some adventure, climbing up the challenging mountains of Ky Quan San and Mount Lao Than. Dubbed ‘oceans of clouds’, the mountains provide visitors with the chance to experience ‘cloud-riding’ and watch the sun rise slowly behind the mountains in milky clouds. The area’s vastness is also sobering, with visitors realising how small they are compared to their surroundings.

Sounds from a wind instrument resounding from a distance, the firm earthen walls of houses, and a Ha Nhi girl diligently carrying baskets of ripe rice are all lively depictions of life in Y Ty, and many visitors find it hard to leave. The colourful portrait of Y Ty makes nature lovers feel affection for the area and its people, and all harbour a wish to return next autumn.

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