For quite some time now, Mu Cang Chai has no longer been a strange name on Vietnam’s tourism map. However, for those who are coming from abroad or further provinces/cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, travel tips will be extremely helpful for having a great experience. Therefore, we would like to present to you our detailed guide to Mu Cang Chai trip. We hope it contains useful information for you!
Where is Mu Cang Chai in Vietnam, actually?
Mu Cang Chai is a remote district in Yen Bai province. This place is known as the heart of the Northwest. If you look at the map of Vietnam, you will realize that Mu Cang Chai is located in the middle of the Northwest region, where there is no border with foreign countries. Traveling to Mu Cang Chai might prove quite challenging for first-time visitors. But worry not, Viet36 is here to help!
Mu Cang Chai district, together with Van Chan district, Tram Tau district, and Nghia Lo town, are four districts in western Yen Bai, located separately on the west side of the Hoang Lien Son-Pu Luong range, and only have one single road that leads to them. That is National Highway number 32, leading to Lai Chau, passing through these 4 districts. The rest are just side roads, only viable for backpackers and locals.
Prominent destinations for tourists include hotels, homestays, and eateries such as: Cao Pha, Khau Pha pass, Kim intersection, La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha, De Xu Phinh, and Mu Cang Chai. There are also viewing spots for magnificent stair-case rice paddies at Muong Lo field, Nghia Lo town, Tu Le rice valley, Van Chan district. Some other destinations that you can visit on a solo trip are Giang Van Chan stream, Ta Xua-Tram Tau, or you can also choose to relax in hot mineral spring bathing spots at Van Chan, Nghia Lo, Tram Tau, Ngoc Chien …
Get to Mu Cang Chai
The distance to Mu Cang Chai is about 300km if you are going from Hanoi, but it will be more difficult to get to in comparison to other destinations such as Sapa, Moc Chau because the road to Mu Cang Chai consists of mountain passes that are difficult to traverse.
Traveling to Mu Cang Chai by bus
– Option 1: If you choose to travel by bus from Hanoi, you can go to My Dinh bus station to hop on a bus to Mu Cang Chai. The bus routes go through Nghia Lo town, and a few will run on the Noi Bai-Lao Cai highway for more provincial guests, but route 32 is still the main road to Mu Cang Chai.
– Option 2 is to take t shuttle from a resort. Currently, in Mu Cang Chai, there is only one resort that is still under construction. Therefore, you could choose to stay at a near by resort, such as Le Champ Tu Le, and then rent a shuttle to Mu Cang Chai.
Traveling to Mu Cang Chai with a rental car
As mentioned above, you can only choose the traditional route, which runs along route 32 through the following destinations: My Dinh – Nhon – Thanh Thuy – Thanh Son Phu Tho – Tan Son Thu Cuc – Ba Khe – Van Chan – TX Nghia Lo – Tu Le – Khau Pha Pass – Nga Ba Kim – Mu Cang Chai Town. Google Maps is quite accurate with its navigation on this route, so you can follow its instructions with confidence.
The best time to visit Mu Cang Chai
The most famous sight in Mu Cang Chai is the terraced fields of golden, ripe rice as far as the eye can see. The rice paddies here are ripe around September – October, and are called the “golden reason” for this reason. The rest of the year, the rice paddies are filled with water and growing rice paddies, but many travelers and photographers still can’t resist the charm of Mu Cang Chai.
Your accommodation in Mu Cang Chai
In Mu Cang Chai, there are not a lot of high-end options for lodging, but you can still get quite comfortable by choosing one of the following options:
This is the most readily available accommodation in Mu Cang Chai. Almost all of the homes in the area are built in the image of “nha san”, a form of architecture that’s unique to the indigenous people. Most of the homestays here have dormitory rooms that can provide resting space for groups of 10–20 people. You can easily find such a home in the area, especially around the tourist hot spots such as Ban Thai, La Pan Tan rice paddies, Tu Le… The homestays have dining options, as well as grocery stores close by for light shopping.
Hotels can be found in the town of Mu Cang Chai, most of them ranging from 1-star to 3-stars. The rooms provide basic necessities such as beds, bathrooms, TVs, refrigerators, etc. Mu Cang Chai also has some new options for accommodation, such as ecolodges. You can try searching for Hello Mu Cang Chai Ecolodge or Mu Cang Chai Ecolodge in La Pan Tan.
You can also stay in Tu Le, Nghia Lo and then travel to Mu Cang Chai for your leisure activities. The hotel activities here are slightly better quality than those found in Mu Cang Chai town. When asking for accommodation, you can freely bargain and decide on the price in advance. The prices here fluctuate, and are often higher during the “golden season”.
What to eat during your Mu Cang Chai trip
We recommend you try the following specialities at least once during your time in Mu Cang Chai: chicken, pork, and sticky rice from local farms, a large variety of fresh fish from the stream (including salmon), sturgeon, wild bamboo shoots, etc. Try to enjoy the local food as much as you can, and avoid food that you can easily get from elsewhere.
Cốm (green rice) from Tu Le is an extremely famous delicacy. Green rice is already a popular seasonal snack in Vietnam, but green rice from Tu Le is considered to be of very high quality. You can see your cốm produced right in front of your eyes, separated from rice plants and pounded by the locals. The price of cốm here is often around 90,000 VND/kg, depends on the season. The people here are quite friendly and honest, so you don’t have to worry about over-priced products or scams.
What to do in Mu Cang Chai
Here are some destinations that you should definitely include in your Mu Cang Chai itinerary:
Muong Lo field in Nghia Lo town
Muong Lo has since long belonged to the list of most productive rice paddies in the region: “nhất Thanh, nhì Lò, tam Than, tứ Tấc” (first Thanh, second Lo, third Than, fourth Tac). Muong Thanh (Dien Bien) is the largest, Muong Lo is the second largest, then Muong Than (Lai Chau) and finally Muong Tac (Son La). Here you can find some of the most gorgeous views during the golden season.
Tu Le Valley
This place is a valley filled with heart-throbbingly beautiful rice paddies. This is also the home of the Black Thai people, an indigenous ethnicity. They have maintained their way of life and fascinating traditions. You can see and experience some of those traditions when you travel here.
Cao Pha, Lim Mong Lim Thai Valley
only a few miles away from Tu Le in the direction to Mu Cang Chai. This is a beautiful valley right under the magnificent Khau Pha mountain pass, one of Vietnam’s four great mountain passes.
If you can spare the time, there are many other destinations that might peak your interest: La Pán Tẩn paddies, Pú Nhu waterfall, the Bamboo Hill, or the Horse Shoe Hill…
Your 2 days 1 night itinerary suggested by a local
Day 1: Hanoi – Thanh Son tea plantation – Tram Tau hotsprings
- Morning: commuting from Hanoi to the next destination.
- 9 AM: A short stop at Thang Son tea hill, Phu Tho.
- 12 a.m.: Lunch break at a restaurant in Nghia Lo Farm.
- 1:30 PM: Visiting Tram Tau hot springs, the “mini-Bali” built from environmentally friendly materials.
- 2:30 PM: Enjoy your leisure time at the hot spring and enjoy the views of the nearby rice paddies.
- 4 PM: Arrival at a “nha san” in Nghia Lo town for resting and relaxing
- Evening: Dinner at the homestay, then a free night for you to explore the surrounding area.
Day 2: Nghia Lo – Mu Cang Chai – Hanoi
- Sáng: breakfast at the homestay; visiting “Mâm Xôi” hill in Mu Cang Chai; sight-seeing at La Pan Tan fields, Che Cu Nha. This is the highlight of the trip, and the most sought-after sight for photographers during the “golden season”.
- 12 AM: Back to Nghia Lo to enjoy lunch with many local delicacies.
- Arrival in Hanoi at 6:30 PM
There is not just one itinerary to discover Mu Cang Chai. We are always at the ready to give you more information for an amazing trip to this destination. Contact us to receive even more recommendations and tips for your Mu Cang Chai trip!