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Lao Cai is a province of the mountainous northwest region of Vietnam, sharing 203 km of border with the city of Hekou in the Yunnan province of Southwest China, 296km northeast of Hanoi by railroad, 345km by road. The province has 1 international border crossing, 1 national border gate and many small border gates trading with China. Thanks to the well-developed transport networks consisting of roads, rail and waterways, Lao Cai province has a lot of advantages for services and tourism.
Area: 6,383.9 km2
Population:  637, 500 inhabitants (2011) composed of  27 ethnicities:
* 194,666 Viet people,122,825 Hmong people
* less than 100,000 people: Tay, Dao, Thai, Giay, Nung
* less than 10,000 people: Phu La, Ha Nhi, Lao,
* less than 2,000 people: Khang, La Ha, Muong, Bo Y 
* less than 1,000 people: Hoa, La Chi
* 11 ethnicities have less than 70 inhabitants: San Chay, San Diu, Kho Me, Lo Lo, Ka Doong, Pa Co , E De,
                                                                                                 Gie Trieng , Gia Rai, Cham, Ka Tu. 
Topography: Lao Cai terrain is very diversified with rivers, high mountain peaks, steep and high mountain passes, deep streams and wide valleys. The two main mountain ranges are Hoang Lien Son range and Con Voi lying northwest – southeast, creating average lowlands. With 3,143m in height, Fansipan is considered the highest peak of the Indochina Peninsula.
Rivers: There are 107 rivers crossing the province, through 3 main systems: the Red river with 120km long, Chay river with 124km, Nam Mu river with 122km.
Administrative units: 1 city (Lao Cai) and 8 rural districts.
Climate: Lao  Cai has a typical mountainous climate. The dry season lasts from October to March and  is cold.  The rain season is from April to September. Annual average temperature is 230C. Specially, sometimes, there is snow in Sapa.
Lao Cai has a tropical monsoon climate, but because it is inland and influenced by complex topography , the weather may change during the day, as day temperature may be  very high or very low (In Sa Pa region, for many days the temperature drops below 0oC and there is snow ) .
Lao Cai has two seasons: the rainy season begins from April to October, the dry season starts from October to March of the following year. The annual average temperature in the highlands ranges from 150C – 200C (140C – 160C at Sapa and never  more than 200C), the average annual temperature in low region ranges from 230C  to  290C.
Fog: There is often fog across the province, very thick in some places. During the freezing period , in the high mountains and valleys  appears hoarfrost , each phase lasting 2-3 days .
Sights of interest
Ethnicities in Lao Cai is 50% of all the ethnicities in the country. So, there is a multi-ethnic culture in this area. In the lowlands, while Tay, Thai, Giay, Nung, live next to the river valleys, along streams, and practise traditional rice culture, La Ha, Phu La... create cultural cultivation with local knowledge suitable for forestry economy. In mountainous areas, the Hmong, Ha Nhi, Dao cultivate on the terraced slopes. The diversity and richness of the culture expressed material and intangible culture. 
Tourists can pay a visit to the minority villages and weekly markets.
Weekly markets
For highland ethnic minorities, markets are not only a place for purchasing or selling goods, but also an occasion for cultural exchange, singing and dancing, playing flute, pan pipe, a place where boys and girls dating, meet and find their soul mate, make friends... Often, each district has a market held regularly on certain days of the month: every fixed date, every 5 days, every 6 days... So there is always a market on every weekday. 
Coc Ly market, 45km from Bac Ha market, is the place where concentrate a lot of ethnicities such as Hmong, Dao, Tay, Nung on Tuesday. The market is held next to the suspension bridge over Chay River.
Sin Cheng market, situated in the town center Sin Cheng, 10km from Si Ma Cai district, is located in a remote commune from the district center, still keeps its characteristics. Ethnic minorities such as Hmong , Nung , Tay, Thu Lao ...attend this market on Wednesday to interact, exchange and trade.
Cao Son market, held on Wednesday, located at Cao Son commune, Muong Khuong district, 80km from Lao Cai city, is attended by ethnicities: Hmong , Phu La , Dao , Han.
Lung Khau Nhin market, 65km from Lao Cai city, held on Thursday by Hmong, Nung, Man… ethnicities.
Can Cau Market, 100 km from Lao Cai city, in Simacai district where Flower Hmong, Tay, Ha Nhi met on Satuday to exchange goods and cattle.
Pha Long Market, 80km from Lao Cai city, is a border commune of Muong Khuong district and a trading center of the ethnicities Hmong, Tay, Nung Pa Di, Thu Lao, Tu Di living in the hamlets: Pha Long, Din Chin, Ta Ngai Cho, Ta Gia Khau gathered on Saturday. 
Y Ty market, 80km from Lao Cai city, is held on Saturday, next to Nhu Co San mountain. Hmong, Dao, Giay, Ha Nhi ethnicities with their colorful clothes gathered to sell, purchase, meet  friends. Sometimes, Chinese from the other side of the sino-vietnamese border join the market, creating an attractive and colorful aspect, as each ethnicitie has its own clothing and turban.
Bac Ha Market, at Bac Ha district, Lao Cai province, 60km from Lao Cai city about 60km, is one of the best and largest ethnic markets in all of northern highlands. On Sunday, the ethnic minorities from the surrounding villages and hills come by foot, by motorscooter, by horse, and by water buffalow for their chance to socialize, eat, drink, smoke, get a haircut, and buy produce and meat for the next week.
Lung Phinh Market, 10km from Bac Ha district, held every 6 days on the unique mountainous road connecting the  Bac Ha and  Si Ma Cai border hamlet. Hmong, Chinese, Phu La , Tay, Dao  ethnicities attend this market.
Muong Hum Market, situated in Bat Xat district, Lao Cai province, 44km from Lao Cai city.
Muong Hum Market is located in a small valley adjacent to the stream with clear water, surrounded by mountains, held on Sunday  by  Ha Nhi ethnic, H'Mongolian, Chinese, Giay, Red Dao, Dao Tuyen, Han...
Muong Khuong market, 50km from Lao Cai, centrally located in Muong Khuong district, held only on Sunday. The unique feature  in Muong Khuong is the horse market , and specially the bird market always crowded of people coming to buy or exchange nightingales.  At a corner of Muong Khuong market, people gather here to sell and buy various birds but the main kind is nightingale. You will easily catch the sight of group of people spend a lot of time for watching birds, listening to its twitters passionately.
Especially, most families in Muong Khuong have at least a bird cage hanging in front of their house. Therefore, you can see many ethnic men carrying their bird- cage to the market in order to show off.
Ethnic villages
Tourists can trek into the ethnic villages to see and understand the ethnic daily activities.
Ban Ho village, 25 km from Sapa town lies a vast and flat valley, circled by mountains and hills, home to the Tay ethnic. It is divided into three areas: Ta Trung Ho, Xeo Trung Ho and Hoang Lien, which is place of the Mong, Dao, Tay. The Muong Hoa River winds its way around the village and provide fresh water for 2 crops of rice and bean every year, making the scenery of the valley more romantic. The Tay people possess high rice farming technique and live sedentary lifestyle. Their villages are often very large with hundred households. Their houses are impressively built on stilts in unique structure to form superb dwellings. It is also a very good village for experiencing homestay.
Once at Ban Ho, visitors not only have opportunities to view wonderful spots, enjoy fresh air but also to see natural beauty with waterfall, go swimming in hot water pool or cold water stream, find out traditional weave fabric, make brocade… and take part in community activities. you will be alive and living in the cozy ambiance and friendly family. 
Ta Van village, located less than 10 km from Sapa, lying peacefully in the valley of Muong Hoa. Residents are mainly the H’Mong ethnic, Giay, and Red Dao… with approximately 1000 people.
The road leads to Ta Van village is small and narrow. On both sides are fertile terraced rice or corn fields. Giay people live together at the bottom, mountains, the valleys, along streams.
Growing rice is the major occuation of the Giay. Besides, they also produce instruments and engraved silver. They live in both stilted houses and common houses with a solemn central part served as a sacred place for ancestor altar and guest reception. The Giay have quite various cultures with fairy-tale, poetry, proverbs and riddles. Costumes of the Giay are simple: women with short indigo dyed pants, wearing cloth bag with embroidered flowers; man also wears pants and shirt.
Ta Phin village, located in Ta Phin Commune, Sa Pa District, about 12km northeast of Sa Pa Town. The village is surrounded by mountains and owns spectacular rice terraces. The best time to visit Ta Phin is in late afternoon when tourists can enjoy amazing view of sunset over the village and the whole surrounding areas.
In Ta Phin Village there are two ethnic minorities living in harmony. They are the Red Dao, who make up the majority, and the Black Hmong. It is the best for the tourists to distinguish the difference in culture, way of living of ethnic minorities in Sapa.
A common sight in the village is to see the woman and the girls sitting together, gossiping and laughing, head down focused on a piece of indigo coloured cloth. They make their embroidery and brocade products that are sold and traded amongst the villages and visitors. The locals are friendly and will invite the tourists to go to their homes to show how they live and what they have. Red Dao people are famous for their secret herbal bath therapy.
Cat Cat village, nestled in a beautiful valley about 3 km from Sapa town. The road leading to Cat Cat Village is an easy and interesting route for trekking. The spot is only within 20-30m minutes walking from Sapa center; and the hike through mountains will offer tourists the wonderful picture of rice paddies, water fall, or even water buffaloes grazing leisurely. Cat Cat village was formed in 19th century by the gathering of some families belonging to some ethnic groups living in mountainous areas of northern Vietnam, especially Black H’Mong .They lived next to each other along the mountain side and cultivated surrounding their home. Rice and corn were grown in terraced fields, while traditional handicrafts such as twisting flax and weaving fabric have been well-kept.
Sa Pa is a highland town, located in the northwest of Vietnam, at an altitude of 1,600 meters above sea level, 38km from Lao Cai city, 376 km from Ha noi capital.
Sapa is a famous tourist spot of Sa Pa district, with a temperate and subtropical climate, cool all year round. Weather at Sapa city reflects four seasons in a day: it is spring in the morning, summer at midday, fall in the afternoon with clouds and winter at night. Average annual air temperature is 150C, suitable for adventure and trekking.
Silver Falls is located at San Sa Ho Commune, Sa Pa district, 12 km from Sapa center. With a height of 200m high, Silver Waterfall is formed by sources of water from the Lo Sui Tong mountain peak. From the distance, the waterfall looks like a white dragon looking down from the sky. From there you can see stunning view of surrounding mountains.
Rattan Bridge is a bridge hanging over the Muong Hoa valley, about 17 km from Sapa town’s center. From the street , visitors can walk along a small path of about 3 km long to go down Rattan Bridge, close to the GiangTa Chai village.
Heaven’s Gate is the highest point in Hoang Lien Son range, Vietnam's highest mountain. With a height of 3142m, Fan Si Pan is considered as the roof of Viet Nam and Indochina. This is the place of national forests which includes temperate forests with bright yellow flowers and sub-tropical forest. Fan Si Pan is home to 2024 plants, 327 species of animals including many species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. There are 37 mammal species recorded in Vietnam’s Red Book.
Sapa ancient carved rock spreads out on the territory of three communes of Ta Van, Hau Thao and Su Pan. It is located in Muong Hoa valley with an area of about 8 km2. Located on the steep winding mountain road, ancient rock carving ground is consisted of 159 small and large boulders alternating in trees, near the side of the road or in water rice paddies. 
Most of big rocks  with beautiful carvings concentrate on Pho village. Especially the carvings of human in various postures: image of a person opening the arms with halo around his round head, image of persons holding hands together, or upside down person. There are 11 styles of strange human images. Most of scientists supposed this was a big heritage of mankind. Not only did it have great value in and spirit but also was a mysterious massage left by ancestor for the following generations
Archaeologists have proven that this area has been inhabited since ancient times. These fascinating Viet remains have drawn the attention of scientists and tourists.
Ham Rong Mountain, in the majestic Hoang Lien Son range with the meaning "dragon jaws", is located close to the center of Sapa town. The garden is designed to fit the natural topography of the broad peak. To visit the gardens, visitors have to climb thousands of stone steps. At every short distance is a complex of theme gardens with different flowers. The last point is the top of Ham Rong considered as an observatory, from here you can have a panoramic landscape of Sapa.
Sapa Market,  just in the core of Sapa town, where Hmong, Dao ethnicities gather on Saturday, Sunday... The market has 2 floors: the ground floor selling food, vegetables.., the upper floor with 2 areas, one of the red Dao people selling handmade products, one of the Viet people selling local Vietnamese products.
Sapa Church, located in the heart of Sapa, is known as stone church or the Holy Rosary church, was built by the French from the early 20th century. Before starting to build this structure, the French architect selected carefully the terrain. This architecture presented in the roof, bell tower… which created the elegant church. The church of Sapa is always a place where hold many traditional cultural activities of ethnic minorities.


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Have you ever thought about going to the other side of the earth? I hadn’t until Noelle E. and David asked me to travel with them to Vietnam. After traveling 10,000 miles,...

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