Travelling throughout Vietnam or even before you arrive in Vietnam there is many tours advertised to Sapa which seem quite expensive, a fellow backpacker I met in Vietnam and I decided to head there for a few days and do our own thing, it was pretty simple. Stepping off the train in Lao Cai after a long journey from Hanoi we bargained for a ride in a mini bus to Sapa. As soon as we left the town and headed for the mountains it was a jaw dropping ride to Sapa we all had our heads glued out the windows looking at the rice fields stepped into the mountains, what a sight! Travelling around Vietnam there is plenty of rice fields to be seen but nothing like this, wow! A couple of people met us at the bus when we arrived in Sapa offering rooms, we stayed at one with the best view (I think) over the mountains for a bargain price of $4 a night.
Our first day in Sapa was spent walking to Cat Cat Village a nice walk down the mountain to a small village that wound down the hill with plenty of stops to buy local nik naks and to take in the view of the mountains, at the bottom of the village there is a large waterfall and an opportunity to take in a show which had local villagers dressed in their traditional clothes with singing and dancing. We decided to take the scenic route back to the main road and walked up this endless staircase into the mountains which had great views across the valley and back looking over Sapa (we really had walked a long way). We took a detour on the way back and ended up in a small village, we were the only tourists there, the children followed us everywhere and when the heavens decided to open up we stopped at the only shop in the village where we were made a nice pot of noodles for lunch and waited out the passing shower with what seemed like everyone in the village.
Our second day in Sapa we hired motorbikes and a driver each and headed to Lao Chai village, the main road to the village swept along the mountain with awesome views looking down to the valleys, we stopped a few times to take some photos. Arriving at the intersection that lead to the village our drivers stopped and we got off to walk down to the village. At the intersection there is a gathering of H’mong women and girls mingling about waiting to escort you to their village.
They speak very good english and chat to you the whole way but are very surprised when they learn I have no children as a lot of the young girls have babies strapped to their backs. I had an interesting conversation with one of the women who told me there are two seasons in Sapa, planting and harvesting season and gathering money off the tourists season. We were definitely in the latter one, as soon as we reach the village they open their backpacks which are filled with goods which have been made in the village from bags to pillow cases, bracelets and blankets. They are so nice and lovely it is hard to say no to them and I buy something off each of my guides.
We met some new guides at the end of the village which walked us over the mountain and through the rice fields to Ban Ho village, this was an exhausting walk in the heat of the day but the views were something else, they had little shelters spread over the mountain where we stopped for a breather and were able to buy overpriced bottles of water. We even had to stop once on the walk to let the buffalos pass, they definitely had right of way! At the village our motorbike drivers met us and we headed back towards Sapa, we couldn’t afford another village, those girls really do bargain hard and after two villages my purse was empty!
This was one of the best days I spent in Vietnam and really is an amazing part of the world.
Travelled to Sapa: 20 – 22 June 2013