Y Ty, 360 kilometers (224 miles) north of Hanoi, is a highland commune in the west of Bat Xat District, Lao Cai, which is home to Sa Pa and the roof of Indochina, Mount Fansipan. But let us forget touristy Sa Pa for a while and explore Y Ty, one of the best known places for cloud hunting in Vietnam’s northern uplands.
The commune center, schools and villages in Y Ty are blanketed in clouds.
The ideal time to visit Y Ty is early morning or late afternoon between September and April.
Lying at a height of 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) above sea level, Y Ty allows you to actually touch and walk in the clouds. On cold days temperatures drop to below 5 degrees Celsius as clouds swoop down over the valleys and villages.
“The 70-kilometer-long journey from Sa Pa to Y Ty is great. I feel like I am walking in the clouds and am fascinated by the beauty of the mountains,” Hanoi photographer Pham Ngoc Thach said.
Y Ty is known as ‘The Land of Fog’ due to the clouds that cover it all year round and rarely let sunlight in. The area is famous for its winding roads, tranquil valleys, magnificent terraces, and small, simple houses of the ethnic people.
Choan Then is an old village founded over 300 years ago. Now it is home to 50 households belonging to the Ha Nhi ethnic minority group. Vietnam’s latest census, done in 2009, had almost 21,800 Ha Nhi people living around the country.
There are no hotels or resorts in Y Ty yet. But you can check out some homestays there that cost only around VND70,000 ($3) despite offering electricity, tap water and wifi. If the homestays are full, you can even spend the night at the border station in Y Ty.
A winding path leading to Ngai Thau Thuong, one of the country’s highest villages, situated at a height of 2,100 meters above sea level just south of Y Ty Commune. This is one of the best places for cloud hunting.
To reach this veritable ‘gate to heaven’, you can take a train or bus from Hanoi to Lao Cai Town, the capital of the namesake province, and hire a motorbike and drive 100 kilometers (62 miles) to Y Ty. The road to Y Ty is quite challenging and it would be best to drive when the sun is out.
Y Ty is a rural commune which is still very poor, and it would be difficult to find any tourism services here. There are just a few households in Y Ty that offer homestay services and a handful of restaurants.
Photos by Pham Ngoc Thach
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