Once travelling to Vietnam, you should never miss the beauty of the superb valleys, the immense fields, the exotic cultures of local ethnicity in 5 places in Northwest Vietnam mentioned below.
Northwest Vietnam is the west mountainous region of the northern Vietnam. Its terrain is rugged with many high mountains. Basically, this is a cultural space of Thai ethnic group which is famous for the unique folk dance. Muong is the largest ethnic group in the region. In addition, there are about 20 other ethnic groups such as H’Mong, Dao, Tay, Kinh, Nung, etc. Anyone who has been through Tay Bac can not forget the image of Thai girls in the featured colourful outfits that characterize the Northwest culture.
1. Mai Chau
You can rent bicycle to explore Mai Chau valley or stroll the fields.
Mai Chau is located far from Ha Noi city about 140km and from Hoa Binh city about 60km to the Northwest. To transport to this mountainous district, you can use motorbike (only for the ones who have good healthy and driving skills), bus, or book Mai Chau tour. Mai Chau town is quite small so you could rent bicycle to stroll around the villages.
While in Mai Chau, do not miss: Thung Khe Pass, located between Tan Lac and Mai Chau on Highway 6. On the way to Mai Chau, you can see the peak of Thung Khe Pass besides white cliffs where there are always tents of corns, rices, eggs for visitors to take a rest and enjoy the superb view of the pass. This pass is not majestic as other passes in Vietnam, but it is one of the most dangerous and challenged for any drivers because of its dense fog all day. Lac village, one of villages of ethnic people where tourists usually choose to stay for their journey. The stilt houses, the simple life, traditional dishes and cute dogs are things you can see in Lac village. Passing 1200 steps to reach Chieu cave and exploring the splendour of stalactite forest. Visiting Go Lao waterfall. Kayaking on Hoa Binh Lake or having a picnic in Ba Khan.
Mai Chau’s specialty: Rice in bamboo tube (Com Lam), Grilled chicken (Ga nuong), Pork skewer (Thit lon xien), Mai Ha wine, Sour Buffalo meat (Thit trau uop chua), Sour stream fish (Ca suoi uop chua) and Fried cicada (Ve sau chien).
2. Moc Chau
Moc Chau tea hills – one of the places tourists usually check in when coming Moc Chau.
Moc Chau plateau is located at an altitude of 1050m above sea level, far away from Hanoi city 200km to the Nortwest. This is a large plateau in Son La Province, stretching about 80km, 25m wide with 1600ha of grasslands. With superb scenery, beautiful villages along the road with peach blossom season, plum blossom season or Brassica napus season, it is regarded as the most beautiful highland in the Northwest region. The weather usually cold with the thick layers of fog that makes the nature here more mysterious and attractive. This mountainous NorthWest highland provides the perfect terrain for Moc Chau trekking routes. The Thai minority, a warm and friendly ethnic group, will welcome you into their homes and share their stilt lifestyle. The roads wind precariously across the mountain ranges, capturing the intensely varied lifestyles of Vietnamese people.
From January to February, you will be overwhelmed by the plum and peach blossom blooming all the ways and mountains. March is the time of white colour when Bauhinia variegata season comes. From April to August is the peaceful, cool-weather time, though there wont be flower season but you can enjoy plums or peachs in local gardens. Independent Holidays in September will be suitable for visitors who love to discover the history of traditional customs.
While in Moc Chau, do not miss: Dai Yem waterfall, Moc Chau tea hills, Moc Chau Happy land, Pha Luong mountain peak and Ban On cave.
Moc Chau’s specialty: Fried veal (Be Chao), Buffalo meat is hung up on a wood stone (Thit trau gac bep), Five-color sticky rice (Xoi ngu sac), Moc Chau stream fish, Moc Chau plum & peach and Fresh cow milk.
3. Mu Cang Chai
A featured “raspberry” (mam xoi) in Mu Cang Chai.
Mu Cang Chai is a rural district of Yen Bai Province , in the Northwest region of Vietnam, about 300km from Hanoi city. In September and October, Vietnamese people often visit Mu Cang Chai to admire the great view of the incredible terrace fields as yellow carpets in the wild scenery. During these 2 months, a tourism Cultural Week of Mu Cang Chai terraced field festival attracts many visitors by its many interesting activities such as parachuting festival, a mountainous market and a making-cake day.
While in Mu Cang Chai, don’t miss: Khau Pha Pass, one of the most steepest passes in Vietnam through Khau Pha mountain (the highest mountain of Mu Cang Chai). The Khau Pha Pass is two thirds of the gravel, rough and rocky road. Throughout the length of the pass, there are several dangerous folding corners. On cloudy days, the pass is particularly dangerous for the drivers because it doesn’t have barriers or any warning sign. Tu Le Valley, a valley in Van Chan district, Yen Bai province is one of the favorite destinations for many visitors who love nature. The smell of ripe yellow rice in the wind on the roof of Tu Le in the middle of autumn makes you want to stay here forever. Lim Mong village, always hides behind the clouds. The nomads are usually panicked at this Northwest territory because of its difficult and dangerous road to the village. Ba Nha bridge is far away from the center of district about 10km. It is an area where the young stop to take a picture of “raspberry”. Going along the sloping back road next to the bridge, you can get many beautiful photographs.
Mu Cang Chai’s specialty: Fried locusts, Salmon and Sturgeon, Tu Le rice, Mu Cang Chai honey, Sticky rice with Tu Le salty peanus and Pork clamps grilled forest trees.
Sapa with the cool weather all year is an ideal place for the ones who love nature and want to experience the wildness of the Northwest Vietnam.
3 things you must do in Sapa are trekking, visiting Sapa tourist attractions and visiting the Northwest market. You can yourself trekking or book a trekking tour in Sapa to explore the culture of local ethnicity, especially the Hoang Lien Son mountain. Children in Sapa speak English very well so it is easy for you to meet the local people and enjoy specialties, drink wine and stay at their homestays.
The Nortwest mountainous markets, each of them, like a fire, ignite its surrounding immense green mountainous area once a week with colors and human warmth by the local hill tribes. They are truly the rendezvous for those who wish to experience more about tribe life and some ancient activities.
Bac Ha market
Tourist attractions in Sapa you should not miss are Cat Cat village (2km from Sapa town), Ta phin village (12km from Sapa town), Hoang Yen Chao castle, Ham Rong mountain, Fansipan mountain and Bac waterfall (12km from Sapa town).
Sapa’s specialty: Fresh vegetable in cold region (white and green cauliflower, red turnip, chayote), Salmon, Sapa “Cap nach” pigs, The baked food (eggs, chicken, corn, rice), Thang Co Sapa (a complicated mixed of buffalo, cow, pig..)
5. Y Ty (Lao Cai)
Y Ty is located in the western of Bat Xat district, Lao Cai Province, about 100km from Lao Cai city. The place known as a “misty land” has the most beautiful terraces and H’Mong-architectured-houses in Lao Cai province.
The “sea” of clouds that makes you feel like in heaven.
The land of Y Ty is located deep in the mountains and coverd by the cloudiness all year. You can rent motorbike from Sapa and Lao Cai city to move to Y Ty. But ensure that your driving skill is good enough to be able to take control through the dangerous roads. At a height of 2000 meters, the back rests on the Nhiu Co San mountain with a peak of 2660 meters, it is rarely to see the sun all day long. It is interesting to visit the Saturday market where you can see the Ha Nhi mothers with colourful pairs of leaves and braided hair around the head. The products brought to the market are the farm produce of the families. Specifically, you can admire the “sea” of clouds from Y Ty.
There is not much choice for food and accomodation in Y Ty because the life here is quite rustic and wild. But I’m sure it will be the best experience in the Northwest Vietnam.
Source: collected from the internet.