Lào Cai is a province of the mountainous Northwest region of Vietnam bordering the province of Yunnan in China. The province covers an area of 6,383.9 square kilometres and as of 2008 it had a population of 602,300 people.
Lào Cai and Sa Pa are two important cities within the province at the border with China; the former is well known as key trading post and the latter is hill station famous for tourism, in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Lào Cai is also the capital of Lào Cai Province and shares border with the city of Hekou, in the Yunnan province of Southwest China. This border town was closed after the 1979 war with China, since reopened in 1993, has become a major tourist centre between Hanoi, Sa Pa and Kunming (China). Sa Pa is notable as a hill resort and market centre for the local ethnic Hmong, including the Red, Black, Green and Flower Hmong. Located across the Muong Hoa Valley from Vietnam's highest mountain, Fansipan, the city is sometimes referred to as the "queen of mountains"
Lào Cai has many historical sites, natural caves and produces agricultural specialties such as Bắc Hà plums.
In a 1929 survey conducted in the area, the vegetation (flora) and fauna (mammals) recorded by the French biologist Delacour who accompanied Theodore Roosevelt were unique to the region in northern Vietnam
With more than 20 ethnic groups, Lào Cai is a melting pot of cultures and history. Ethnic Vietnamese are the majority, especially since 1960 when the North Vietnamese government followed a policy of settling communist party cadres from lowland areas in upland areas, then predominantly occupied by tribes. According to the General Statistics Office of the Government of Vietnam, the population of Lào Cai province, as of 2008, was 602,300 with a density of 94 persons per square km over a total land area of 6,383.9 square kilometres (2,464.8 sq mi) of the province. The male population during this period was 303,300 with females accounting for 299,000.The urban population was 125,900 against an urban population of 476,400 (about 25% of the rural population).
The province has 25 Vietnam's ethnic minority groups accounting for 64.09% of its population. The distribution of the ethnic minorities comprises: Kinh - 35.9%, Hmong - 22.21%, Tay - 15.84%, Dao -14.05%, Giay - 4.7%, Nùng 4.4% and the others belong to Phu La, San Chay, Ha Nhi, and the La Chi groups.
Languages spoken in Lào Cai province include the following.