Every year, during grain season, thousands of flocks of tourists and photographers go to mountainous areas in Northern Vietnam for the most scenic rice terraces in the world. Mu Cang Chai (Mù Căng Chải), Yen Bai province, is one of most attractive destinations of all. Personally, I think Mu Cang Chai’s rice fields are even more beautiful than Sapa‘s.
You will not only enjoy the majestic and beautiful terraces but also learn the unique and rustic life of H’mong ethnic group. A hard but warm-hearted life – a rare thing in the modern world. Mu Cang Chai’s highlights include: majestic rice terraces, sticky rice in Tu Le (xôi Tú Lệ), Tu Le hot stream and unique life of ethnic H’Mong. Read on to see what you should do to get the best trip!
Best time to visit Mu Cang Chai
The best time to visit Mu Cang Chai is from Mid-September to Mid-October during the season when rice fields are turning yellow and ready for harvest. This can be different each year (depending on weather), so be sure to check out first. BUT from May to Sep is also no less impressive when the rice fields are green.
You can travel to Mu Cang Chai for 2.5 days with motorbike, or 3 days by bus (overnight on bus).
Get to Mu Cang Chai by bus from Hanoi
The Hanoi – Mu Cang Chai distance is 280km (about 180 miles), but the road is not very supportive for large vehicle so it often takes about one night to get there. Consider some of the following bus firms that offer Hanoi-Mu Cang Chai ride:
1. Hung Thanh bus. Add: 162B Tran Quang Khai – Hanoi city, tel: +8443.9274.285. Leave from Hanoi at 7.45pm and arrive at 3.pm
2. Hai Van bus, from My Dinh bus station (at 20 Pham Hung street – Tu Liem – Hanoi) at 7pm. Tel: +84918.104.22.168 or +8443.7223.588
3. Hoang Anh bus, from Giap Bat bus station (on Giai Phong street – Hanoi) at 5pm. Tel: +84984.971.999 or +84912.317.515
4. Anh Tu in My Dinh station, leave at 5.30pm or 6.45pm. Tel: +8498.6025.569 or +8416.9928.6488
5. Khanh Thuy leave from My Dinh at 7.pm, Tel: +84988.976.321 or +8497.6652.400
Mu Cang Chai itinerary for 3 days by bus
Day 1: Get to Mu Cang Chai by bus (from the previous night) and arrive in late afternoon. You can choose to stay overnight in Tu Le (Tú Lệ) or Mu Cang Chai town for a taste of a mountain town.
Day 2: Spend all day to wander on the beautiful terraces, you should rent a motorbike to travel (ask from your hotel or contact: +8429.6263.064 or +84166.568.4574). The region with the most stunning terraces is La Pan Tan village (bản La Pán Tẩn), located on the route from Tu Le to Mu Cang Chai. To get there, you can rent a motorbike, or take a motortaxi (xe ôm) or bus from Tu Le or Mu Cang Chai to La Pan Tan town. And from there is a nice trek up the mountain.
Day 3: Catch a bus back to Hanoi
Mu Cang Chai trip on motorbikes
Motorbike is the best choice to for a Mu Cang Chai trip, on which you can easily travel to and stop at anywhere that you feel like to, which will be constant for sure. Some highlights in this itinerary: La Pan Tan terraces, Lim Mong valley (thung lũng Lìm Mông), Khau Pha mountain pass (đèo Khau Phạ – the longest mountain pass in Northern Vietnam).
Especially, you should deeply go into La Pan Tan area. On the route, there’s a small trail along the valley, take that one and keep going. It will lead you to picturesque views (I found this place thanks to the help of a H’mong guy).
If have 2 days an a half on motorbike, there’re 2 itineraries:
Itinerary 1 (2.5 day):
Day 1: Ride to Nghia Lo (Nghĩa Lộ – a town located on the route from Hanoi-Mu Cang Chai) 190km or 120 miles from Hanoi. You should set out soon because night travelling by motorbike is not safe.
Day 2: Explore the beauty of Khau Pha mountain pass, Lim Mong valley, La Pan Tan then stay overnight in Mu Cang Chai town.
Day 3: Visit the remaining attractions and back to Hanoi.
Itinerary 2 (3 day):
Day 1: Go straight to Mu Cang Chai. For th rest of the day, explore Lim Mong valley and Khau Pha pass. Overnight in Mu Cang Chai.
Day 2: Explore La Pan Tan village and stay overnight in Nghia Lo town. Don’t forget to try specialty snake near Mien Tay hotel.
Day 3: Visit Suoi Giang (Suối Giàng) then back to Hanoi in the afternoon.
Hotels and motels
In Mu Cang Chai
Remember to book early during high season.
1. Suoi Mo motel, my favourite, they have very cute double room. Tel: +8429.3878.643 or +84915.842.789
2. Moon motel, tel: +84293.878.929 or +8422.214.171.124 or +84165.6782.888. The motel has wifi connection, breakfast and motorbike rent service.
3. Son Ca motel, contact +84293.878.185 or +84988.981.675
4. Buu Dien guesthouse (Post Office guesthouse), contact Mr.Thanh +84975.644.965 to book, or ask him for contact if you prefer homestay.
In Nghia Lo town
This is big town so you have quite many options. Here are two of them to consider:
5. Nghia Lo hotel, Tel: +8429.3870.106 or +8429.3870.428 or +84985.563.563
6. Mien Tay hotel, Tel: +8429.3870.698 or +8429.3871.223
Hotel prices in Nghia Lo range from $8 to $10/double room.
In Tu Le town
7. Hoang Quan motel has herbal bath service, very interesting. Prices from $8 – $10/double room. Tel: +84293.897.126
8. Xom Vang motel at beginning of Tu Le toward Nghia Lo – Mu Cang Chai, $9/double room. Tel: +84293.897.205 or +84918.177.325 or +8498.2385.440
9. Chuyen Dung hotel + restaurant is quite famous, $11 – $13 / double room. Foods in the hotel are usually sold out very soon, you have to order in advance. The restaurant is famous for sticky rice and chicken.
10. Pho Nui motel, tel: +8429.3897.115 or +84986.308.761
Mu Cang Chai combo
You can have a longer trip, from 4 to 6 days, and combine 2 equally impressive places: Sapa + Mu Cang Chai.
In Northern Vietnam, there’re 3 places that will ensure you a panoramic view of beautiful rice terraces: Sapa, Mu Cang Chai and Hoang Su Phi (Ha Giang).