Annually, at the end of September or early October, those who love moving cannot miss the ripe rice season of terraced fields in the highland districts of Yen Bai province, about 300 kilometres from Hanoi.
Amid the ripe rice season, Mu Cang Chai is like a mountain girl in her best moments in life. Terraced fields look like golden streams flowing to the valley. Due to different planting time, some plots are fully ripe, but there are still some greenish patches here and there, creating a spectacular painting.
However, if you are not lucky enough to arrive on time, just a week later, the harvesting work is already done, and all you can admire are straws.
Together with O Quy Ho, Ma Pi Leng and Pha Din, Khau Pha Pass is one of the four highest passes in Vietnam. Whenever a ripe rice season comes, paragliders across the country gather on top of the pass and spread the wings above the yellow warmth of Cao Pha fields.
Stopping on Khau Pha pass for a while, visitors cannot ignore the warm scent of com (or green rice, which is immature rice kernels roasted over very low heat then pounded in a mortar and pestle until flattened). Along the road over Tu Le commune, hundreds of households make com with traditional rice mortars. The price ranges around $5.1 per kilogram. Almost no one can resist this wonderful dessert.
All roads in Mu Cang Chai seem to lead to Mam Xoi (Raspberry) hill in La Pan Tan. The terraced fields here are cleverly shaped like raspberries and shining a bright yellow shade under the sun. Mam Xoi hill has become a symbol of Mu Cang Chai.
To get in this hill, each visitor has to pay about $1 for the entrance fee. At the foothills is a whole army of motorbike taxis charging about $2 for two-way travelling.
Despite the entrance fee, visitors sometimes still get disturbed by some local people asking for compensation because their rice is damaged. Most travellers are advised not to pay any money but they still do for not being bothered any longer.
However, most of the people here are friendly to tourists. They rent the H'Mong ethnic costumes for about $1.5 and are willing to take pictures with tourists.
Beside the Mam Xoi hill, there is a whole hill of buckwheat that was designed like miniature labyrinths. The entrance fee here is about $0.5.
A modern resort is under construction in La Pan Tan and overlooks the Mam Xoi Hill.
There are many beautiful terraced fields in De Xu Phinh, Che Cu Nha and Lao Chai that take a few days to visit them all.
The terraced rice fields winding like the waves have made Mu Cang Chai a popular destination in the autumn.