Sapa’s terraced fields suggested for world heritage recognition

14 07 2009

The northern mountainous province of Lao Cai has proposed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism ask for UNESCO’s recognition of Sapa’s terraced fields as a world heritage.

The terraced field is a form of cultivation in the mountainous topographies of many ethnic groups in the world, such as the Inca people in Peru, in Yunnan, China, and in Banaue, the Philippines, which was recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage.

Seven most magnificent terraced fields in the world as voted by Travel & Leisure: Banaue (Philippines), Yuangyang (Yunnan, China), Ubud (Bali, Indonesia), Annapurna (Nepal), Mae Rim (Chiang Mai, Thailand), Sapa (Lao Cai, Vietnam), and Long Ji (Kuei Lin, China).

Sapa’s terraced fields were recently recognised as one of the world’s seven most beautiful and magnificent terraced fields in the world by US-based Travel & Leisure magazine. This was only a vote of readers of a tourism magazine but it is good news for Vietnam.

Dr. Tran Huu Son, Lao Cai provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s chief, said that the department proposed that provincial authorities and the culture ministry make a survey and compile files on Sapa’s terraced fields, Hoang Lien national park and the ancient rock bank in Sapa to submit to UNESCO for recognition as world cultural heritages.

“This is a difficult task but we are trying to turn Sapa’s terraced fields into a world heritage for the many foreign travellers who love Sapa and Vietnam,” Son said.

The Thao & Van Hoa talked with Son about Sapa’s terraced fields:

Do you think that it is good luck Sapa’s terraced fields were voted one of the seven most magnificent terraced fields in the world by Travel and Leisure?

I think that with the natural beauty of that landscape, it is not at all surprising they were recognised as one of the seven most magnificent terraced fields in Asia and the world by Travel and Leisure.

There are some terraced field tours in Sapa, including two major tours: From Sapa town to Ly Lao Chai – Ta Van and Sapa town – Ly Lao Chai – Ta Van – Ban Ho – Thanh Phu – Suoi Thau.

Terraced fields in Sapa are a product of H’Mong and Dao people. This kind of terraced field is different from the fields of Ha Nhi people in Yunnan (China) or in the Philippines because each ethnic group has its own cultivation techniques.

The owners of terraced fields in Sapa have abundant folk knowledge. Their fields are as beautiful as terraced fields in Mu Cang Chai (Yen Bai, Vietnam) or in the Philippines.

Could you tell us more about terraced fields in Sapa and in your opinion, what aspects of Sapa’s terraced fields can be considered outstanding in the world?

Terraced fields are the most popular in the following areas: on abrupt mountain slopes along roads in Trung Chai commune, along the road from Lao Cai city to Sapa town. These are terraced fields of H’Mong people.

Terraced fields owned by H’Mong, Dao and Giay people are located in Muong Hoa valley. This is the combination between cultivation of wet rice in narrow valleys of Giay people and cultivation on high mountains of H’Mong and Dao people.

In Muong Hoa valley, Lao Chai district, visitors can observe a complex of terraced fields from Muong Hoa stream to the middle of the mountain, totalling around 10sq.km. In this area, the beauty of terraced fields is outstanding thanks to the vast space. Another beautiful terraced field area is Suoi Thau, which was created by Dao people.

Terraced fields appear in many provinces in Vietnam. The field in Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai province was recognized as a national relic in 2007. How about the fields in Sapa?

Terraced fields in Sapa are very beautiful. We are making surveys and preparing documents to ask for recognition as a national heritage. We also proposed that competent agencies ask for UNESCO’s recognition of the complex of the terraced fields, the ancient stone bank and Hoang Lien national park as world heritages.

What is the role of terraced fields in today’s farming?

Terraced fields are H’Mong, Dao and Giay people’s farming techniques for sloping topography. It is an achievement in terms of culture and folk knowledge. Terraced fields help maintain food stability in mountainous areas.

VietNamNet/TT-VH

Recommended tours in Sapa, Vietnam: http://www.activetravelvietnam.com/tour.php?op=listByCategoryId&catId=9

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Sapa tags: Trek Fansipan & Sapa Travel, SaPa Hotels , Sapa Tours & daily excursions , Trek Mai Chau


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