Tourists join bonfire and enjoy traditional art of Thái people. — VNS Photos Đỗ Hữu
When autumn comes, many tourists flock to Tú Lệ Valley in the northern province of Yên Bái to enjoy the spectacular scenery and the special gift of autumn, cốm (young rice flakes).
It takes six hours to travel to the valley by car from Hà Nội and a bit longer by train to Yên Bái Station then a taxi or motorbike to Tú Lệ Commune.
Adventurous types would enjoy hiring a motorbike to discover the beautiful landscape, breathe in the pure, cool air of the high mountainous region and enjoy the fragrance of the rice in the terrace fields.
The best time to travel to Tú Lệ is from August to November. Riding on National Road No 31 from Nghĩa Lộ Town, when you are immersed in the scent of rice, that means you have arrived at Tú Lệ Valley.
An infinity pool overlooking rice fields of Tú Lệ Valley.
If you can’t go then, May is another good option as this is when the fields are flooded. It’s the time when farmers bring water to the fields to prepare for a new crop. It’s amazing to see the sky and clouds reflected on the fields like mirrors.
The view over Tú Lệ Valley with green rice fields and clouds over the mountain peak.
Tú Lệ Commune is a 3,000ha valley between Khau Phạ, Khau Song and Khau Thán mountains. The site is known for terrace fields, spectacular view over mountains and forests, hot springs and beautiful caves.
Tú Lệ means beautiful and delicate, which accurately describes the land and people. The tourism industry has developed in the recent years providing various options, including homestays, hotels and resorts.
I booked a room at Le Champ Resort to enjoy the privacy in its hot spring. Bungalows in the traditional local style decorate the mountainsides, making Tú Lệ Valley all more picturesque.
Bungalows in the traditional architecture of the Thái people lying on the flank.
After a long journey, my friends and I soaked ourselves in the hot spring from Chao Stream. At sunset, the water vapour from the stream made the view spectacular.
Bathing in streams is a tradition of local people. The image of young Thái ethnic minority women soaking in the stream has inspired many photographers and artists.
We wore the costumes of Thái people and gradually soaked in the hot water. When our bodies were totally covered by the water, cloths were wrapped on the heads to keep our hair dry. Men and women have separate areas in the private hot spring of the resort.
After dinner, we gathered around the bonfire to join xòe Thái, a traditional dance of the Thái people, in which people hold hands and dance together.
The next day, we went trekking to take photos of terrace fields and discover Tiên Nữ (Fairy) Cave.
Its name says everything about the cave, which houses many spectacular stalactites. Along the path into the cave, tourists can view the stalactites in different forms and shapes, the cool water dropping from the cave ceiling and the stream running in the cave.
Imaginative tourists will like this tour as they can imagine the shape of the stalactites, according to tour guide Trịnh Minh Đức.
“Some tourists tell me that they see the images of fairies, flowers and Mâm Xôi Hill, the famous destination of Mù Cang Chải terrace fields,” he said.
When tourists come in autumn, they can enjoy rafting on Chao Stream, a wonderful adventurous experience.
Dương Văn Tiến, vice chairman of the Yên Bái Province People’s Committee, said in recent years, the provincial government has focused on developing tourism.
Accordingly, traditional art is presented at homestays, hotels and resorts in the region to attract tourists and promote the heritage.
“The local tourism industry has been renovated and developed recently. We expect that Yên Bái will attract 750,000 tourists this year.
“Tú Lệ Valley is one among destinations together with Mù Cang Chải terrace fields, Khau Phạ Pass where the Paragliding Festival is organised, and the sea of clouds on Tà Xùa Peak,” he said.
A two-day journey to Tú Lệ Valley is ideal to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s an experience in all senses, the aroma of rice, the imposing landscape, the charming dance of the locals, the relaxing bath in hot spring and extraordinary cuisine with wild vegetable, rice wine and grilled meat. All blend together to make unforgettable memories. — VNS