Mu Cang Chai Overview
Mu Cang Chai (Mù Căng Chải) is located at the foot of the Hoang Lien Son mountain of Yen Bai province, about 6-7 hours driving from Hanoi. It is well-known for spectacular terraced rice fileds which are best in June and September. This is a favorite destination for nature lovers and photographers. Visitors could take 3-day trip to Mu Cang Chai and surrounding areas (Khau Pha pass, Nghia Lo, Tu Le commune, La Pan Tan, Kim Noi…). You will be impressed with nice drive from Khau Pha pass with one side of the most tortuous passes and the other of the most beautiful terraced fields in the country. A visit to Mu Cang Chai also give you a great opportunity to meet, talk and stay with the family of hill tribe people in Northwest Vietnam.
How to get to Mu Cang Chai
Mu Cang Chai is about 330km Northwest of Hanoi. With the improvement of road network, today it is so much easier to access Mu Cang Chai by motorbike, tourist bus and especially by private car.
This may be a perfect method for those who are into adventure and get familiar with winding mountain roads since it is a long journey of 7-8 hours on up-down and curving roads. It is recommended to go with a partner you can exchange to drive and have someone to talk with. Traveling to Mu Cang Chai by motorbike could be a fun experience as it allows you to visit several places on the way which are too far for a walk and the paths are too small for cars. For safety, you should not drive at the high speed and at the night time due to the low visibility.
By tourist bus
There are some local sleeper buses from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai, such as Khanh Thuy, Thao Nguyen, Cuong Lan. The pick-up points in Hanoi are at My Dinh, Giap Bat and Gia Lam Bus Stations, and the drop-off point is at the center of Mu Cang Chai Town. The departure time is from 10am to the latest one at 23:30pm. It takes around 7,5 hours to reach Mu Cang Chai district. From the bus station, you need to rent the motorbike to access the terrace rice field or the Thai villages…. Even though the cost is quite cheap at around 8-12 USD one-way ticket but very few people choose this option.
By private car
It is no doubt that traveling with a private car is the most convenient way. The experienced driver will pick you up at your hotel lobby at any time you prefer and take you to Mu Cang Chai on a 6 -7 hour journey. It is flexible and you could stop along the drive for tea break or photo opportunity. You do not need to follow any bus or train schedule. However, this option cost you some extra dollars.
Best time to visit Mu Cang Chai
Mu Cang Chai itself is a beautiful place all year round. However, the best time to visit Mu Cang Chai is no doubt during the rice harvest, from mid-September to mid-October when the endless terraced rice fields change from green color to yellow one. It is also right time for hikers and photography enthusiasts alike. From afar, the rice fields look like golden silk scarves flying over in the wind above green mountain slopes, making the mountainous landscape astonishingly beautiful.
Between May and June is the time of watering when the first summer rains start pouring down the mountain to the terraces. Water spills into the fields making the arid soil softer and hatched so that the rice can be transplanted. During this period, the local people start plowing for a new crop. The surface of terraced fields shines like a mirror reflecting the contrast of the reddish brown of soil, the deep blue of the sky and the green of surrounding forests creating a picture of natural beauty.