Deep in the valleys forged by the waters of Asia's Red River, a series of colorful mountain villages are encircled by fields of towering rice terraces. The fields are agricultural feats of precision — rugged mountains blanketed with emerald stairways that, seemingly, ascend khổng lồ the heavens above.

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But this is not Disneyland. This isn't a destination designed to attract visitors, international attention or the Instagram set.


Centuries ago, the ancestors of Northern Vietnam's local hill tribes created this place of practicality và profound beauty for the most basic of reasons — lớn survive.


Rice thrives in water-logged conditions, making it ideal for the flooded Mekong Delta at the country's southern tip. To grow rice in vertical conditions, hill tribes created a terraced system lớn control the downward flow of water. Using ingenuity, resourcefulness và sheer grunt work, fertile fields of sustenance và breathtaking beauty were born — và still flourish today.

In total, rice terraces cover more than 2,200 hectares of land in Mu Cang Chai, of which 500 were designated as national heritage sites by Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sports và Tourism in 2007.


That land is shared by the three villages — La Pan Tan, đậy Cu Nha và De Xu Phinh — và are must-see spots for any traveler in the region.


Home khổng lồ some 42,000 people, Mu Cang Chai is largely rural. The countryside is dotted with rustically authentic guesthouses và homestays.


One example is Indigenous Homestay, Mu Cang Chai's top-ranked accommodation on TripAdvisor which boasts 25 "excellent" and two "good" đánh giá — no others — for the bargain price of $9 a night.

Mu Cang Chai Ecolodge offers more creature comforts. Built in 2017, the ecolodge consists of seven stilted houses & arranges two-to-four day tours of the area, which include planting or harvesting of the rice terraces alongside local inhabitants.


For travelers moving westward to Sapa, the Topas Ecolodge offers 33 stone bungalows, two restaurants, a lounge, pool bar và spa. It's also part of the National Geographic quality Lodges of the World, which the company defines as "lodges that invite guests to lớn discover some of the planet's most treasured places, while helping lớn protect those places for generations to lớn come."


Trekking is popular, as is cycling và photography.

"The specialty is trekking through amazing rice terraces khổng lồ see ethnic minorities, such as Thai, H'Mong and Red Dzao hill tribes, while enjoying authentic local meals harvested directly from farm khổng lồ your plate," said Tran Thuy Hai, director of Travel at Topas Travel Vietnam.


She added that motorbiking is a favorite activity, mostly for backpackers & younger travelers, due khổng lồ the chất lượng of the roads and dirt tracks, though Topas doesn't encourage it for safety reasons.

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Topas Ecolodge can arrange four to 10-day trips of the region. She said tours can be tailored to lớn suit all types of travelers from extreme adventurers to relaxing family trips with kids.


Festivals attract record numbers of tourists every year, including an autumn paragliding festival that's helping khổng lồ establish Mu Cang Chai as a new destination for adventure travel.

Other popular activities include traversing the breathtaking Khau trộn Pass & exploring the Mo Waterfall and Pu Nhu Waterfall.


If Vietnam resembles an upright cobra — or a capital "S" — then the Yen Bai province is near the eye of the snake. The district of Mu Cang Chai, located 215 miles northwest of Hanoi, is located in the province's eastern corner.


Located between — and not geographically far from — Hanoi & the popular trekking town of Sapa, Mu Cang Chai is not necessarily easy to lớn reach. The trip can take around seven hours, or longer, lớn reach from Hanoi.

Most travelers travel via train, bus or private transport — or a combination of those options.


It is said there is never a bad season khổng lồ see Mu Cang Chai, as the rice terraces are beautiful year-round.

In the spring, near-neon shades of green arise as the seedlings sprout from the water. In the warm summer months, brilliant green terraces fill the countryside with bursts of color.

The slopes transform into seas of gold during the autumn harvest period. And in late winter, shimmering ponds are suspended along the mountain slopes, awaiting the birth of next year's crop.


In line with increasing tourism numbers khổng lồ Vietnam as a whole, the Vietnam News Agency estimates Mu Cang Chai received 90,000 visitors in 2018 — compared lớn just 20,000 in 2015.

As such, local authorities are looking into ways to lớn protect the local ethnic groups, while raising environmental và ecotourism awareness.


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