Located in the northwestern edge of Lào Cai Province's Bát Xát District, the Y Tý highlands are more than 2,000m above sea level, which gives it a mild climate all year round, and the single administrative commune of Y Tý is separated by high mountains.
That's why when you get to Y Tý Commune, it feels like entering a secluded community. The climate can be very harsh during winter, when the temperature can fall below zero, making life here tough for locals, so when it's cool, and the rice on terrace fields is ripe and harvested, the whole area wakes up after a long nap.
The terraced fields around Y Tý are famous for the spectacular man-made construction on steep slopes wrapping around the mountains.
I rode my motorbike slowly along the winding dirt road that was sometimes tricky with pebbles. The dry roads make it less dangerous than in the rainy season. Travelling by motorbike in the mountains is the best way to explore. You can breathe in the fragrance of the land and the wet woods of the jungle. When you get out to see the terraced fields, a warm fulfilling scent of ripe rice fills the air.
People of four ethnic groups live in Y Tý, namely the Mông, Dao, Giáy and Hà Nhì. The Hà Nhì group belongs to a larger community of Haqniq people living in Southeast Asia and southern China.
The Black Hà Nhì live in Y Tý and they have built terraced fields for many generations. They plant rice, speak their own language and live in thick clay houses. The thick thatched roofs make their houses look like giant mushrooms from afar.
The Thiên Sinh, or Celestial Birth bridge, is only 1m-long and is located at the end of Lao Chải hamlet. It is actually a big stone set above the roaring Lũng Pô stream.
Crossing this bridge, you'll see the most beautiful golden crop. Local Hà Nhì people plant special rice that produces this gold colour. If you take a walk around the village, you will likely be greeted by smiling elderly people.
The Hà Nhì in Y Tý make their own beer and each household has its own version. They make their beer from sticky rice, steamed well, then fermented with forests seeds. The beer is ready after about three weeks of fermenting and the longer it's kept, the more golden and tasty it becomes.
If you want to hunt for fluffy white clouds on the terraced fields, you can go to Ngải Thầu Hamlet, dubbed the highest community in Việt Nam, and be amazed at how large the terraced fields can be and how delicious the new rice can taste.
Finally, you have touched down with some of the earthy aspects of a place that may seem like heaven up in Y Tý. — VNS