Where clouds hang out

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If ever there was a vantage point for cloud-watchers, it would be Y Ty.

At more than 2,000 meters above sea level, leaning on the Nhu Cu San Mountain, Y Ty Commune in the northern province of Lao Cai's Bat Xat District is a favorite place for clouds to hang out. The place is almost never bathed in sunlight for a whole day.

And if you are visiting between November and April, you should know that the commune is enveloped in thick fog, day and night.

Y Ty has 15 villages home to Kinh (Viet) and three ethnic groups the Ha Nhi, Dao and H'mong. Roads twist and turn languidly along the mountain and then "vanish" into the greenery of forests. Houses play hide and seek constantly, but also put in veiled appearances once in a while, depending on the density of clouds at different times. Terraced fields on the mountains and several cascades add to the enchantment.

Sometimes, winds bring the clouds from the mountain to the villages, merging the horizon not in the distance, but right in front of you. No wonder visitors have the experience of entering a different world.

In the Y Ty Valley, houses have a unique architectural feature. The rectangle-shaped houses have walls made of clay and wooden or straw grass roofs. They have only one main door and a small arched window for ventilation above, retaining warmth in an area where the temperature normally stays at less than 20 degrees Celsius.

GETTING THERE

"¢ In Hanoi, catch a bus from the Giap Bat Station or a train from the Hanoi Railway Station to Lao Cai Town. The 300-kilometer long trip takes around 12 hours.

"¢ After reaching the town, tourists can hire a motorbike from hotels to go another 70 kilometers to reach Y Ty Commune in Bat Xat District. The road from Lao Cai Town to Y Ty is rather narrow small, so it may be difficult to get there by car.

"¢ Tourists can also bring their motorbike for the trip. The Hanoi Railway Station provides the service of transporting vehicles along with passengers.


Yellow ripened paddy fields in Y Ty Commune, Lao Cai Province.

The colors of the sky and the clouds, yellow ripened paddy fields, green grasses and trees - the stunning landscape painted with youthful abandon. In the evening, an occasional breeze moves through the valley, sweeping the clouds aside, allowing glimpses of a bright moon in a dark sky.

Beautiful cardamom forests skirt around the homes in Y Ty, filling the air with a pungent aroma. For years, the spice, highly prized by Chinese people, has been one of the most important sources of income for the commune. A kilogram of cardamom sells at around VND80,000 (US$4).

If you are in Y Ty on a Saturday, you can enjoy the long-standing ethnic minority tradition of the weekend market where the H'mong, Dao and Ha Nhi come to trade goods and socialize.

Many women wear colorful brocade dresses and scarves going to the market. Chinese vendors can also be found in the market at times.

After the market closes, the girls stand on the roadside or sit on flat stones, enjoying the sunshine, chatting with each other, while some of them embroider clothes.

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