Terraced Rice Fields – a Northwestern Vietnamese Treasure

More than just a smart farming method, terraced paddy fields are magnificent sights

When taking a trip to the highland in Northwestern Vietnam, tourists encounter the unspoiled beauty of winding green rice terraces nestled in the vast valleys and mountain slopes. These sights are unforgettable. Poets, writers and photographers were moved by the beauty of the terraced fields. They could not help but liken the scenery to golden stairways to heaven.

How significant are the terraced fields in Northwestern Vietnam’s highland?

Indeed the treasure of the Northwestern people!

No one knows exactly when these fields appeared, but the elders have seen them standing tall and proud since forever.

The terraced fields were formed because there was no flat land for easy farming in the mountainous terrain unlike in the delta region (especially for wet rice cultivation.) Additionally, deforestation for swidden cultivation no longer brings economic benefits, but creates patchy, discolored fields. For these reasons, the highlanders have found a way to produce food by adapting to the rugged terrain. Terraced fields can be considered an smart form of farming by the highlanders.

Diligent highlanders work on the terraced fields day after day. Photo: dinhtronghai / Shutterstock.com
Diligent highlanders work on the terraced fields day after day. Photo: dinhtronghai / Shutterstock.com

To create the terraced rice paddies, farmers flatten hillsides and mountainsides with comparable slopes (equivalent height and area), stretching from the top to the bottom like a staircase. Depending on the cultivation intention, the terraces are kept dry or used as a means to supply water to the crops.

In Vietnam, this form of farming has been used by ethnic minorities for a long time for its high economic efficiency. It is popular among the H’mong, Dao, Hà Nhì and La Hủ ethnic groups in Lào Cai, Yên Bái and Lai Châu provinces.

This lust scenery is a magnificent and poetic picture in the Northwestern region. From afar, the enormous “stairs” leaning against the hillsides resemble a painting. Besides their economic values, terraced fields are a culturally significant image that represents the fruit of the farmers’ labour and life in the highlands.

Dreamy terraced fields in the eyes of photographers
Dreamy terraced fields in the eyes of photographers

A guide to the stunning terraced paddy fields.

Although terraced rice fields are ubiquitous in the Northern region, for the most appealing landscape, you should visit Mù Cang Chải and Sapa. Both represent Vietnam in the list of the world’s 12 most beautiful rice terraces, voted by the British newspaper Telegraph in 2018. They are also recognized as a national relic site and praised by international media. It is a great honor for the Vietnamese people in general and the Northwestern highland in particular.

Mù Cang Chải is a district in Yên Bái province, located at the foot of Hoàng Liên Sơn mountain and about 300 km from Hanoi. Just follow the Hanoi – Lào Cai highway, go straight ahead to Sa Pa then take the pass of Ô Quy Hồ to Tân Uyên, Than Uyên District. It is recommended to come to Mù Cang Chải in September and October to get a chance to contemplate the winding golden rice fields. The raspberry-shaped terraces, forests and streams interweave to create a spectacular landscape.

Mu Cang Chai. Photo: dinhtronghai / Shutterstock.com
Mu Cang Chai. Photo: dinhtronghai / Shutterstock.com

Sapa is a mountainous district of Lào Cai Province, located 38km from Lào Cai City and 376km from Hanoi. Visitors can take Hanoi – Lào Cai highway to get to Sa Pa. In addition to the famous and attractive tourist destinations, the terraced fields here are also a highlight. Similar to Mù Cang Chải, the rice harvest season is the best time for visitors.

Northwest Vietnam
Northwest Vietnam

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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