The terraced fields in the northern highlands present widely different vistas during different seasons. In June, they are waterlogged as farmers prepare for a new crop.
While it is often said that the rice harvest season during September and October is the best time of the year to see the terraced fields as they shine a golden yellow, the waterlogged fields are no less stunning as they reflect the bright summer sun.
The farmers flood the fields soon after the first summer rains and start transplanting rice seedlings for the new crop. The watering season lasts from late May to the end of June every year, and it is a time when photography enthusiasts rush to the northern highlands to capture a different kind of beauty.
A farmer tills a flooded terraced rice field in Tu Le, a small valley surrounded by three mountains – Khau Pha, Khau Than, Khau Song in Yen Bai Province, around 150 kilometers northwest of Hanoi.
An aerial view of waterlogged fields in Tu Le, with a patch of green indicating what they will look like as the rice plants grow.
The Lim Mong Valley is a spectacular collage of bright colors when seen from the Khau Pha Pass in Yen Bai Province.
Apart from the skill involved in carving these fields on the sides of mountains in Mu Cang Chai, a rural district of Yen Bai, the H’Mong and Thai people’s cultivation process also showcases their indigenous knowledge.
Farmers take advantage of the first rain showers of the summer when the sun is not at its hottest to drain the fields. They also direct water from streams through bamboo tubes to irrigate the fields.
Children from 10-11 years old typically learn on the job as they help their family by plowing the fields with buffaloes. It is not unusual to see younger children follow their sisters or brothers to the fields to play.
U.S. magazine Condé Nast Traveler recently chose rice terraces in Yen Bai Province as one of “the most colorful places” on the planet.
Mu Cang Chai is around seven hours drive to the northwest of Hanoi. It sits at 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level at the foot of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range.
Locals, mainly belonging to the H’Mong ethnic minority group, began carving rice terraces into the mountain range centuries ago and continue to plant and harvest the crop today.
Early in the morning, the H’Mong people in Sang Ma Sao, a remote commune in Bat Xat District, around 70 kilometers from Sa Pa, a popular tourist town in Lao Cai Province, carry their hoes and lead their buffaloes to start another working day.
A woman walks in the middle of newly-planted rice fields.
Photos by Nguyen Tan Tuan, Tran Minh Dung