For travelers, autumn in Mu Cang Chai, a district of Yen Bai Province in the northern upland, has a particular beauty.
The early morning in Mu Cang Chai is quite comfortable thanks to some rain the earlier night. Breakfast at a bistro that serves noodles with wild goose, salted bamboo sprout and chili costs VND20,000 (less than US$1) per bowl. Hot breakfast is ideal for starting a journey.
Tourists are recommended to hire motorbikes to get to La Pan Tan Commune, around 20 kilometers from the district center.
Along the road which winds around the mountain, one can see splendid terraced rice fields with many layers and small houses where local people stock rice before taking it home. Mong ethnic women walk along the road with needles in their hands to embroider their skirts.
A local tour guide named Tien says women in Mu Cang Chai usually make skirts in spare time. “It takes almost a year to finish a handmade skirt. Although the colorful skirts look rudimentary, ethnic women need a lot of energy and time to produce them,” he said.
Local people make clothes for their own use, not for sale, because a handmade skirt costs several million Vietnamese dong, much higher than those colorful skirts imported from China, which cost less than VND100,000 each.
On the road to La Pan Tan, tourists might see children smiling brightly and waving to them, and young women smiling back when cameras are pointed towards them.
Some travelers might give money to kids there in anticipation of preventing them from quitting school but this is not recommended. Confectionery, dairy products and clothes, among others, should be given instead.
First-time visitors might be surprised when seeing pumpkin gardens on the roofs of ethnic people’s homes.
In La Pan Tan, no word could be used to describe the beauty of the terraced rice fields in yellow in harvest season.
For most travelers, the best time to visit Mu Cang Chai is October. Tourists should take a coach at My Dinh station in Ha Noi for a 300-kilometer ride to Mu Cang Chai. Certain local youths prefer biking from Ha Noi to Yen Bai’s Nghia Lo District and Tu Le Commune in Van Chan District before reaching Mu Cang Chai.