Sapa is one of the most attractive mountainous town in Northern Vietnam where you are amazed by nature beauty, rice fields, ethnic people, culture and lifestyle. Sapa is capital of Sapa District in Lao Cai Province and lies at the altitude of 1600 m. Temperature are from the lowest -1C to the highest of 29C. We came to Sapa at 1st November welcomed by cold foggy weather. We changed our summer t-shirts to “winter” collection. Tomas was real czech guy wearing sandals with socks 🙂 Sapa is home of a great diversity of ethnic minorities who you can meet in Sapa town or in their villages all around Sapa ditrict. Ethnic people don’t live in Sapa town but in valleys throughout Sapa district. Sapa town is place where ethnic people gather, trade or sell their farming products and sell handicrafts to tourists.
For us was Sapa 1st place which we visited in Vietnam. Most of the tourist come to Sapa from Hanoi. But we came from Laos via border city Dien Bien Phu. From Dien Bien Phu it takes around 8-10 hours by day or night bus. We didn’t want to spend another day in bus so we have chose night sleeping bus. The bus should departure at 6 pm so we came half hour before with ticket and seats. Bus was already full with locals and there were not empty seats for us. They showed us the worst back wooden seats! It took us around 10 min arguing and showing tickets and then driver told local people to leave our seats. We felt really uncomfortable in bus. Except us there were 2 girls from Israel traveling to Sapa. We felt asleep and don’t focus on crazy driving. Bus driver was so fast that we arrived 3 hours earlier at 3 am. Foggy and very cold Sapa bus station welcomed us. Question was where to go in the middle of the night? Girls suggested one hostel where we might find a bed. Hostel was open but reception not. They let us sleep on carpet in big social room. Lucky hmm 🙂 We dressed all our warm clothes but were still cold. Sapa city is on the hill and during foggy weather you can’t see anything, only white carpet around you. If you book expensive room with mountain view pray for a good weather otherwise you will be very sad. Sapa town is small tourist place with restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops and shops selling winter staff from different brands. Clothes, shoes, accessories you can buy from 25$. If I’m going back home I will definitely buy something 🙂 In Sapa city you can see church, lake (which was dry that time) and that´s pretty much all.
How to explore SAPA?
- Stay in town and pay for specific Sapa tour. You can choose short, long, active or lazy tours. Or you can rent a motorbike and drive around by yourself. This option is good if you like comfort and social life around you.
- Choose accommodation (homestay) in valley and sleep between mountains with local people. You can explore Sapa on motorbike by yourself or also pay to local people and have your tour guide. You will sleep with fresh air surrounded by silent hills and have time to relax from crowded cities. You can eat in few possible restaurants or ask local to cook for you.
- 2-3 days trekking tour and you can spend a night in hotel or homestay. You can enjoy it or not. Depends on your physical condition, weather, tour guide, homestay. You can be in organised tour or pay your personal tour guide. On internet you can find more about tours. We didn’t use it, we just booked homestay and made our own short trek in valley.
We chose 2nd option and booked perfect Ahn Dduc Homestay in Ta Van Valley. One negative point is that to get to the Ta Van Valley which is only 8 km from town costs 200 000 – 300 000 Dong. It may be less or more depends on which valley you will stay. Other options it to rent a motorbike up in the town and go down by yourself with GPS or asking locals about location of homestay you want to stay. Be also aware, you can pay valley fee for 50 000 Dong per person. Most of the villages have entrance fee. We were lucky and didn´t pay anything maybe because it was not high season in October.
Ta Van Valley – our homestay village in Sapa
here we stayed at Ahn Duc Homestay
Lady on the street drinking soya milk 🙂
We arrived to our homestay in the afternoon so we just walked around and had a local beer in village. In the Sapa city was fog and you could see only white clouds around but in the valley it was much better. See what we had around our homestay.
Local ethnic people will follow you even when you say no. They will walk behind you and in the end expect reward for their tour. They picked some handcrafts from bamboo backpack and tried to sell. We felt sorry for them and gave them little money. But you have to be strong because they will ask you on every corner even during eating! We were eating breakfast and they came and offered staff untill you buy something.
we gave them money and took photo with them 🙂
having fun on bridge 🙂
Girls in homestay offer to have dinner and eat with them. If I remember, it costs 6$ per person. I asked if I can help in kitchen and cook with them. They said yes and I had honor to prepare spring rolls and help with veggie. We had dinner together with homemade rice wine with pear. It was really nice evening.
We had vegetable spring rolls, thai green cabbage, meat with veggie, soup, french fries and again meat. All served with rice and rice wine. Really tasty dinner.
Next day we explored Sapa on motorbike and visited surrounded villages such Lai Chau, Su Pan, Thanh Kim, Hau Thao, Ban Phung and finished in famous Cat Cat village.
We will return to Sapa one day when its sunny to see real beauty during rice season when all is green and sunny!