Lao Cai is a border province in the Northern midland and mountainous region of Vietnam, located between the Northwest and the Northeast. It has two seasons, namely the rainy season (from April to October) and the dry season (from October to March). Whenever Lao Cai is mentioned, people will instantly think of the misty town of Sapa, one of the most attractive tourism destinations in Vietnam. However, it is little known that the province has many more impressive attractions.
Here are four names you may want to add to your travel list.
To date, Bac Ha fair is the largest market in the Northwest where the original qualities of a mountainous fair are kept intact.
This fair is held on Sundays only.
Every time it takes place, ethnic minority people from surrounding districts and villages flock to the town of Bac Ha. Fairgoers can find a variety of things put up for sale here and have fun at the same time.
Bac Ha market is divided into several areas selling different things, including brocade products, miscellaneous items, jewelry, cattle and food. The food area is always crowded, with specialties typical of the mountainous region such as “thắng cố” (horse meat hotpot), corn wine, rice wine, pseudo ginseng flower tea, etc.
Another must-visit place in Bac Ha is Hoang A Tuong Palace (aka the Hmong King’s Palace) commenced in 1914 and officially completed in 1921. Built from limestone, sand and molasses found locally and cement, iron and steel transported from Hanoi and the heart of Lao Cai, it is truly an imposing and sophisticated work amid the remote land.
Now, let’s head to the Thai Giang Pho flower valley. This valley really stands out with poetic and peaceful beauty generated by countless types of flowers, including hydrangea, chrysanths, pelargonium, orchid and gloxinia, along with an endless stretch of green rice fields. Coming to Bac Ha, tourists can also enjoy many traditional dishes such as “mèn mén” (steamed milled corn), sour “phở”, grilled chicken, smoked meat, sausages, seven-coloured steamed sticky rice and so on.
Apart from the fields in Ha Giang, tourists can relish the beauty of buckwheat flowers in Lu Than, Lao Cai province. Stretching nearly 20 hectares, the 5 consecutive plots of buckwheat flowers in Lu Than seem to have no end.
In Simacai, you’ll hear a lot about Can Cau fair, which is unique to the ethnic minorities in the Northwest, mostly to the Giay and Mong – Hoa people. It is the largest buffalo fair in the Northwest where hundreds of buffaloes are traded each time.
Lung Po is a must-see landmark once you travel to Bat Xat. Lung Po is a stream in the district of Bat Xat which separates Vietnam and China and flows into the Red River at milestone No. 92. It not only marks the starting point of the Red River in Vietnam but also holds a history that one can hardly imagine if they do not come here in person. Once in Lao Cai, make sure you visit the Lung Po flagpole.
Y Ty is another attraction in Bat Xat which is worth mentioning. Likened to a newly discovered fairyland in Vietnam, the cloud-covered commune of Y Ty is situated at an altitude of over 2,000 metres and leans its back against Nhiu Co San mountain. It attracts a lot of tourists who wish to reach the clouds and capture in their eyes the beautiful scenery of terraced fields and rural villages looming beneath the clouds.
The Muong Khuong fair is held only once a week, specifically on Sunday. What makes it unique is that it is a horse and bird fair. Nightingales are found abundant here. Hundreds of people, young and old, do not mind spending hours contemplating the beauty of every single bird.
After immersing yourself in the hustle and bustle of Muong Khuong fair, freeing your mind at Ta Lam waterfall is not a bad idea. Ta Lam is a renowned waterfall on the Nam Thi River, located between two mountains resembling descending dragons whose bodies and tails lean against a towering mountain range with a luxuriant forest on its top. Comprised of three smaller branches, this fall is the pride of generations of Muong Khuong people. Tourists to Muong Khuong, “the gate to heaven”, cannot miss the mysterious cave of Ham Rong, a well-known national relic.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt