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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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