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Where in the World?

Posted on 1/12/2021 12:00:00 AM in Travel Trivia

Two local Sapa women walk the mountainous rice fields, a place where generations of farmers have grown the crop.

Question: Where in the world do hillside dwellers harvest crops from a “natural rice factory”?

Answer: Sapa, Vietnam

For hundreds upon hundreds of years, Northern Vietnam’s landscape has been shaped by the hands of some of the country’s most colorful ethnic tribes. Many of these minority people reside amongst the mountain village of Sapa, and for generations, they have carved out breathtaking rice terraces. Their method of rice farming is not only efficient, but it attracts adventurers from all over the world as Sapa’s terraces are considered some of the most beautiful on the planet.

There are a few different hill tribes that call Sapa their home—the Dao, the H’Mong, the Ha Nhi, the Tay, and the Xa Pho—and these groups make up a large percentage of the town’s 10,000-person population. Here, both the climate and the terrain are optimal for growing rice. The mountains are wide and steep which are ideal for creating the large sculptured plateaus, and the heavy rainy season of April and May is essential to growing bountiful harvests. New rice is planted in June and July, and by September and October, the rice is ready to harvest. During the growing season, rituals are often performed to pray for a good harvest and for the gods to protect their crops.

Many of the hill tribespeople live in wooden houses scattered among the mountains and fields. They tend to their crops without using machines or modern technology, but instead through simple tools. The terraces are looked at as a masterpiece of art, and the tribespeople are immensely proud of their craft. Their methods for successful farming are passed down from one generation to the next, having been perfected over hundreds of years of practice.

Some of the best views of the terraces can be seen on the journey to the top of Vietnam’s tallest mountain, Fansipan Mountain in Sapa. For many years, the only way to reach the top of the mountain was on foot, but now the top can be reached in about 15 minutes by cable car during one of the longest cable car routes in the world. The glass-walled cars of this tram provide unparalleled views of the verdant terraced paddies below and the surrounding rolling mountains. At the top of the mountain, visitors can walk amongst the clouds and look out over the beautiful green countryside of Sapa that the hill tribes call home.

A Few Additional Facts About Fansipan Mountain:

  • Fansipan—also known as Phan Xi Pang—is not only the tallest mountain in Vietnam but is the tallest in the entire Indochinese Peninsula (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It’s even nicknamed the “Roof of Indochina” because of this.

  • On top of the mountain, there is a beautiful pagoda that has stunning views of the rolling mountains and rice paddies. The pagoda is a place of religious pilgrimage for many Buddhists to pray where the Earth and sky connect.

  • Many visitors come to the top seeking blessings of peace and prosperity within the sprawling pagoda’s various shrines, statues, and gardens.

  • It’s an important destination for meditation and worship among those who practice Buddhism. Monks who have made the pilgrimage there can often be seen burning incense and praying at the pagoda.

  • The pagoda complex at the top is representative of Vietnamese Buddhist architecture and reflects the styles of many ancient pagodas found across Vietnam’s provinces. The tiered structure is located at the top of a tall tower with two other smaller temples on either side.

  • There’s a 60-foot-tall statue of a seated Buddha on the edge of the mountain—the tallest statue of Buddha in all of Vietnam.

  • The complex also features a large statue of the female Buddha who is known as the Goddess of Compassion.

  • These spiritual symbols coupled with the dramatic natural views make the top of Fan Si Pan a transcendental experience.

Related Video:

Tough Trains - Vietnam: The Reunification Express
Follow our host Zay Harding as he traces the rail network of Vietnam from Hanoi to Saigon, and discover how this railway—once at the heart of international conflict during the Vietnam War—has now become a symbol of unity.

Watch Video

Marvel at the craft of Sapa’s hill tribes when you travel on the Northern Vietnam post-trip extension to Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam.

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