|The trail known as the 'spine of the dinosaur'. — Photo courtesy of Vũ Sơn Tùng|
Ly Ly Cao
For many Vietnamese, autumn is the most beautiful season of the year because of its weather and views. And it is even more so in Bình Liêu, Quảng Ninh Province, which is well known for its hills covered in ravishing white reeds.
Compared to other more famous tourist destinations in Quảng Ninh such as Hạ Long Bay, Cô Tô, or Quan Lạn, Bình Liêu is just an obscure name. But this cannot hide the attractiveness of the region, especially to younger tourists.
Located in the northeast, more than 100km away from the centre of Hạ Long City and right next to the border with China, the mountainous district has a peaceful atmosphere and spectacular landscapes of untouched beauty.
In July and August, the district is decorated with the golden colour of terraced fields as they enter harvest season, while in March and April, trẩu flowers (Vernicia Montana) bloom, which are only found in Bình Liêu, and the whole region bursts in an array of stunning colours.
Though it is beautiful in every season, many will like it best in the autumn.
|Yellow terraced rice fields in Bình Liêu. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thanh Huyền - Yêu Bếp|
When autumn comes, the hills of Bình Liêu are covered with white reeds, creating spectacular romantic views for travellers. Thus the area is known as the 'Reed Kingdom'.
These white reed hills can be found on border patrol road at an altitude of 700m, just west of Bình Liêu. To get there, tourists have to travel from Bình Liêu Town to Hoành Mô, and then to Ngàn Chuồng Village in Lục Hồn Commune.
|In autumn, the hills are covered with stunning white reeds. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thanh Huyền - Yêu Bếp|
From here, tourists can start the journey to visit the border route, which is about 16km long. Many majestic landmarks are numbered and prove popular places for young travellers to take photos.
Along the way, visitors can enjoy wonderful views of terraced fields, small villages hidden behind mountains and clear blue skies.
The small road leading to the reed fields is right on top of a high hill, and it is likened to walking on a back of a giant dinosaur. It is known locally as 'the spine of the dinosaur'.
It is also considered the biggest challenge of the whole journey as it leads to the peak of the highest mountain of Bình Liêu.
|Visitors take their time to check-in at the various landmarks. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thanh Huyền - Yêu Bếp|
In the past there there was no road and travellers had to walk through many hidden dangers. However, a more than one-metre wide road was completed in 2018 and it is now more convenient, including 2,000 steps and guard rails on both sides.
To reach the landmark, it takes about 2 hours.
Besides natural beauty, tourists can also experience and witness the lives of local ethnic minorities.
A total of 96 per cent of Bình Liêu’s population are ethnics, the highest concentration of minorities in the whole country. The Tày accounts for the majority, 51.27 per cent. Others include the Dao (28.21 per cent) and Sán Chay (15.25 per cent).
|A dish of five-colour sticky rice. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thanh Huyền - Yêu Bếp|
Each ethnic group retains its own cultural values and unique dishes elaborately cooked with local ingredients. Some outstanding local dishes are five-colour sticky rice, black chicken, arrowroot noodles, and stir-fried wild bamboo shoot.
The patterns on the clothing of each group also vary, with the Dao embroidering using colourful thread, while the Tày and Sán Chỉ preferring to dye their fabrics in indigo and blue.
The mountainous district also has its own intangible cultural heritage, notably festivals including the Lục Na festival and the singing festival in March. During the festival, visitors can watch locals playing folk games like tug of war, and enjoy their unique traditional songs.
|Sán Chay women playing football while wearing their traditional costumes. —VNA/VNS Photo|
Relatively unspoilt by development, the cultural features of the ethnic communities in Bình Liêu are mesmerising, and the untouched landscapes make it an amazing place for tourists to explore. — VNS