Northwestern golden season comes calling

The most beautiful time of year in the northwestern mountains is slowly beginning and as the terraced rice fields ripen, the region is draped in a changing colourful blanket day by day.

Northwestern golden season comes calling

A mother horse and her calf on top of Ngai Thau, a scenic spot best to watch the sunset in Bac Ha. — VNS Photo Bui Oanh

The best time to see beautiful landscapes is between early September until late October. 

Mu Cang Chai District of Yen Bai Province, Sa Pa Town in Lao Cai Province and Y Ty Commune in Bat Xat District of Lao Cai Province are the best locations to visit. The terraced fields of Sa Pa were chosen by Travel and Leisure magazine as among the seven best-terraced fields of Asia. 

Picturesque rice terraced fields around Cat Cat, Ta Van, Lao Chai and Ta Phin villages in Lao Cai can be beautiful from any angle of views.

From Hanoi, visitors can catch a bus, a train or book a coach to Sa Pa, taking five to eight hours. The best means of transport in Sa Pa is by motorbikes. You can rent one to ride up and down the slopes of the area to immerse yourself in the fragrant scent of ripening rice. 

Northwestern golden season comes calling
It’s the harvest season in the mountains of Bac Ha. — VNS Photo Cao Huong

If you’ve come to Sa Pa, you can make an extra effort by riding up to Y Ty in Bat Xat District. The longer, more winding roads with elbow sharp turns on the mountains make for a challenging but rewarding journey. 

Then you can ask around for a spot to enjoy the scenic beauty, the white clouds against a deep blue sky over greenish mountains and golden harvest. 

Located 2,000m above sea level, each year when the rice gets ripe, the region wakes up after a long sleepy nap. You can find yourself standing above clouds which were previously hanging below you on a field. Life in Y Ty is tranquil all year, even during the most touristy time of year. 

Northwestern golden season comes calling
Get yourself up to the top of a mountain, where you can have the freshest air possible. — VNS Photo 

People harvest and then hang their rice and corn in front of their bamboo houses. 

Northerners in Bac Ha District of Lao Cai Province also make young green rice, which can be eaten fresh or cooked to make sticky rice or pop rice, like popcorn. With just a hot teapot and some green rice, you can pass the day and capture the best season changes from the top of a mountain. 

I signed up to study cooking with chef Vu Van Son, who has called Bac Ha home for the past 20 years. He gives workshops for homestay owners like me in the region and his use of the best seasonal local ingredients gave us the basic training to later create our own dishes.  

All you need to enjoy the beauty of the northwestern mountains is a motorbike and these days, enough sanitiser and face masks.

A golden season of scenic beauty, freshly cut rice and hand-picked vegetables from fresh mountain gardens awaits you.  VNS

Cao Huong