Rice terraces at Trinh Tuong, Bat Xat, Lao Cai

Lao Cai

Lao Cai Province of Vietnam is located in the north-western region of the country. Lao Cai shares border with China to the north, with Ha Giang to the east, with Yen Bai to the southeast and south, and with Lai Chau to the west. The capital of the province is Lao Cai City, 300km north-west of Hanoi. The province possesses sublime untouched natural beauties, rich and colorful ethnic cultures, and has long been a popular tourist attraction for the Vietnamese tourists as well as for foreign visitors.

 Three Hmong ladies at Can Cau Market
Three Hmong ladies at Can Cau Market
 
Lao Cai has mountainous terrains with the mountain ranges of Hoang Lien to the west and Con Voi (Elephant) to the east. Most of the terrains of Lao Cai are from 300m to above 1,000m above sea level. The two highest mountain peaks in the province are Fansipan (3,143m) and Ta Giang Phing (3,090m). Both mountain peaks offer challenging trekking and hiking adventures.
 
Rice terraces at Den Sang, Bat Xat, Lao Cai 
Rice terraces at Den Sang, Bat Xat
 

There are two main river systems in Lao Cai Province: the Red River and the Chay River which have river basins with fertile alluvial soil. The Red River flows into Vietnam from China at A Mu Sung (Bat Xat District, Lao Cai) going south-east right along the borderline between Vietnam and China all the way from Bat Xat to Lao Cai City. The Red River keeps the general direction from north-west to south-east all the way from Lao Cai, through Yen Bai, Phu Tho, Hanoi and other provinces in the Red River Delta before discharging its water into the East Vietnam Sea.

The Red River enters Vietnam at A Mu Sung, Bat Xat, Lao Cai
The Red River enters Vietnam at A Mu Sung, Bat Xat, Lao Cai

The Chay River starts from western side of Ha Giang at Kieu Lieu Thi Mountain flowing through Si Ma Cai and Bac Ha Districts of Lao Cai, then flow through Yen Bai into Thac Ba Lake, then discharging its water into the Lo River at Doan Hung (Phu Tho Province). There are various ethnic communities living along the rivers in Lao Cai. Cruising along the Chay River in Bac Ha District to visit different ethnic villages is a great experience.

 
Little Hmong girls at Sapa
Little Hmong girls at Sapa

Lao Cai has a tropical monsoon climate with two main seasons: the rainy season is from April to October and the dry season from November through March. Because different areas of Lao Cai are separated by high mountain ranges and with very different altitudes, the climate may vary dramatically from one place to another. It may be good to know that the winter in Lao Cai could be extremely cold below freezing point and expect snow some time in late December, January, early February. It is normal for Lao Cai to have snow in the high mountains in the winter.

Lao Cai has the average rainfall of 1,800mm to over 2,000mm per annum. During the rainy season, some areas of Lao Cai may suffer from landslides and flash floods. If you plan a motorbike tour or a trekking trip in Lao Cai during the rainy time, it is advisable to consult local travel agencies and tour operators for the most up-to-date information.

 
Rice terraces at Trinh Tuong, Bat Xat
Rice terraces at Trinh Tuong, Bat Xat
 
Lao Cai Province is inhabited by 25 groups of peoples including the Kinh (36%), Hmong (22%), Tay (16%),  Dao (14%), Giay (5%), Nung (4%),.... Most ethnic minorities keep their traditional culture unchanged as it has been for centuries: they are dressed in the same daily traditional costumes, have the same housing style, working on the same rice terraces...  Traveling through different areas of Lao Cai, you will encounter different ethnic minorities where ever you go. 
 
 
 Mountains at Bat Xat
Mountains at Bat Xat

Tourist attractions and what to see in Lao Cai
While Lao Cai is a popular travel destination, tourism in the province has been mostly limited to Sapa and the surrounding villages only. There are vast regions around Bac Ha, Si Ma Cai, Muong Khuong, Bat Xat that are not much visited by travellers.

Bac Ha Lao Cai Vietnam
Bac Ha Lao Cai Vietnam

There are colorful ethnic markets in Bac Ha and Muong Khuong on Sunday morning and at Can Cau (in Si Ma Cai) on Saturday morning.

Besides, there are amazing rice terraces in Sapa, Bat Xat and Muong Khuong. These terraces are great for photography in late May-early June when they are flooded ready for rice-transplanting, and in late September-early October when the rice turns into golden colors.

Y Ty in Bat Xat is located on an altitude of 2,000m above sea level with cool climate all year round. Y Ty has potential to turn into a mountain resort soon.

Muong Hum Sunday Market in Lao Cai Vietnam 
Muong Hum Sunday Market in Lao Cai Vietnam

Travel and tours in Lao Cai
While Sapa and Y Ty could offer you with relaxing holidays in cool temperatures; most other areas of Lao Cai could offer adventure tours like motorbike tours, mountain biking tours, trekking and hiking tours.

 
 Bac Ha ethnic market
Bac Ha ethnic market

Paradissa organizes a number of tours to Lao Cai ranging from relaxing luxury holidays and mountain bike tours in Sapa to trekking adventure tours in Sapa and Bat Xat. If you want to climb high mountains in Vietnam, Paradissa has a good collection of mountain climbing in Lao Cai such as the Fansipan peaks, Bach Moc Luong Tu (Ky Quan San) peaks,...We also offer unforgettable photo tours and photo workshops to different attractions in Lao Cai Province as well as nearby ones.

Lao Cai City at night
Lao Cai City at night, right on the border between Vietnam and China

Accommodation
If you travel far from Sapa and Bac Ha, then accommodations available are just simple guest houses and rustic homestay. Camping can be an alternative when you climb the mountains.

Rice terraces at Y Ty which is 2,000m above sealevel
Rice terraces at Y Ty which is 2,000m above sea level

In Sapa, there are several luxury hotels offering lovely views of mountains and valleys. In Bac Ha, you can have decent hotels, but not luxury ones.

How to get there
From Hanoi you can travel to Lao Cai City by road which takes over 4 hours or by overnight train which takes 9 hours. The new expressway is in excellent condition. The overnight train has soft-sleeper compartments which helps to make the journey more of comfort.

Lao Cai has an international border-crossing with China at: Lao Cai City (Vietnam) – Hekou (China). It is also possible to travel by rail from Hanoi to Lao Cai, then to Kumming (Yunnan, China).