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Nature & Adventure

Mu Cang Chai Golden Season

Translated by Bing
From mid-September, when autumn knocks, the high ground begins to coat the yellow of rice on the green patches of the mountains and forests, causing hearts to move towards the Northwest.

Solo trips always bring many pleasant surprises. Sometimes it's lost times, sometimes it's amazing views. This trip happened to bring me a companion after a brief conversation in the car.

The night bus ride over 300km from Hanoi city took us to Mu Cang Chai, a district in Yen Bai province.

The first morning, from the homestay in town, we rented a motorbike to La Pan Tan. According to Google map, the narrow, twisting and steep roads in the village are really a challenge for the driver. However, in the cool autumn wind, leisurely driving in the golden sea, while engrossed in breathing the scent of rice, we no longer pay attention to those bumpy roads.

The paths led us from surprise to surprise. Along the way, strata fields hug mountains, connecting to the horizon. Looking down from above, each soft blue and yellow strip intertwined like a painting, causing us to stop the car from time to time, exclaiming, "So beautiful!"

We arrived at Raspberry Hill, the field named after its shape, like an offering to heaven and earth. The road to the raspberry field is very narrow and steep, so you have to ask for a motorbike taxi. People here say that this time is also the ripe apple and cat season in Mu Cang Chai. After leaving the raspberries, we were led to the apricot forest to pick berries and wander the village until the afternoon.

On the second day, it was blind so there was no sunrise in the morning. Go away from Mu Cang Chai town towards Hanoi, via Khau Pha pass, one of the four great passes of Vietnam, 30km long. The view here really makes anyone overwhelmed. Looking down from the top of Khau Pha pass, we were amazed by the blue, yellow and brown patches, undulating the folds of the houses of Lìm Mong and Lìm Thai villages. In the distance, the peaks of the mountains loomed in clouds and fog. Rice cascades, from the foot of the stream, layered all the way to the top of the high mountain.

At the foot of Khau Pha pass is the land of Tu Le in Van Chan district, famous for its glutinous rice varieties. Along the way, in many small huts, Thai people pound nuggets rhythmically in the fragrant new rice aroma. Stopping to watch relatives pound nuggets and enjoy the fragrant nuggets of gummy nuggets, I understand why people often say that if you visit Tu Le but have not enjoyed the green nuggets, you are not considered to come here.

It rained heavily when crossing Khau Pha pass back to Mu Cang Chai. The rain brought clouds, obscuring the pass road. Is that why people call this place the "land of the blind"? Scared and cold at the same time, luckily we saw a watering hole at the top of the pass and pulled over. Thanks to the corn and potatoes of the host, it relieves cold and hunger somewhat.

By the time we got to Mu Cang Chai, the rice was not ripe evenly, but the harvest air had already begun to bustle, scattered over the fields. Hmong women in traditional costumes, their hands gently reaping bundles of rice. If it is sunny, the rice will be lined up for 2 days of drying. But it was a little blind that day, so the people threshed rice in the field. Because the terrain is difficult, the threshing machine cannot bring it to the field, people use a large barrel to threshing rice called a throw.

In Mu Cang Chai, rice terraces are concentrated in 3 communes La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha and De Xu Phin. Having come here and heard about the process of clearing terraced fields, witnessing the harvest, to fully understand the value of each grain of rice created. Each grain is not only a gift of nature but also a crystallization of the persistent labor, not worrying about difficulties of people here.

Goodbye Mu Cang Chai, we are forever impressed by the magnificent paintings – masterpieces of nature and human hands; Then, coming to Hanoi, those green and yellow colors keep haunting the mind and the rice aroma is still lingering here.

Some notes when coming to Mu Cang Chai

The right time to go to Mu Cang Chai:

The ripening season usually runs from mid-September to October. The terraced fields start to change color from green to yellow, the cool autumn air is the ideal time to have 1 trip to Mu Cang Chai. In addition, if you come to Mu Cang Chai in May 5-6, you can also admire the spectacular water season.

How to Get to Mu Cang Chai:

From Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai, you can travel by motorbike along National Highway 32. Travel time is about 8 hours. Coaches are another choice if you want to spend the night in the car before starting your journey of discovery.

Coming to Mu Cang Chai, you should rent a motorbike to be able to freely explore this land to the fullest. The road in Mu Cang Chai terrain is mainly steep passes, so you need to steer firmly when driving vehicles.

Some other notes:

+ If you go to Mu Cang Chai in high seasons, you need to book accommodation early to avoid running out of rooms.

+ Mu Cang Chai weather changes continuously throughout the day, so you should bring a raincoat. In particular, you need to bring a jacket because the mornings and nights are relatively cold.

Articles and photos: Le Phuong

Image source: Multiple authors
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