SAPA is situated in Lao Cai province in the northwest part of Vietnam. It is close to the border with China or around 350 km of Hanoi. As from this capital city of Vietnam, the best way to reach Sapa is to go by train (8 hours) or tourist bus (12 hours).
It has become one of the main tourist destinations in Vietnam. Anywhere in Sapa, we can see many international tourists speaking various different languages.
Most train leaves Hanoi in the evening and reaches train station in Lao Cai – Sapa before the sunrise. Still, it is 37 km away from this station to Sapa mountain town where tourists like to stay. However, all of the tiredness paid off as soon as I arrived in Sapa at dawn.
Surrounded by darkness and fog, visitors are welcomed with the fresh morning weather. Depending on the season, it might be just fresh like any mountain weather or freezing cold like winter. Northern part of Vietnam has four seasons. It was a good summer day when I went there in early June of around 27° Celcius. In winter (November to February), the weather could be cold, wet and foggy.
Ta Van Village
Ta Van is a small village situated at the bottom of the valley of around 9 km from Sapa town. Visitors can either do an adventurous tour such as trekking, as majority tourists want to do in Sapa, or hire a motorbike to wander around the valley of Muong Hoa. It is around a four hour trekking from the town to this village. As to save time, our small group preferred to hire motorbikes and within two hours I reached the village – that included many stops at many spots to take pictures!
Along the way, we could see breathtaking scenery of terrace fields. Many visitors take the challenge doing the trekking, and some of them spend the night at the “home stay”. It is an experience of the life-style and culture typical of the area. I was lucky that my friends there gave me an experience of the local life. They took me to a “home stay” belongs to their friend. As for our lunch, we bought vegetables from the local market and cooked them in the house. Food was shared among friends and house owner.
Sapa is home for several ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao, Giay, Pho Lu, and Tay live. As we drove through, we could enjoy the beautiful mountain view, rice fields, and different hill tribe villages. The colorful designs of traditional dresses of the various ethnic minorities in Sapa and their hairdo are gorgeous. Furthermore, the foggy weather seems to make everything more exotic.
One of the tourist attractions is the Dragon Mountain or Ham Rong in local language. It is a big park with various gardens and beautiful flowers. This place is easy to access as it is located within walking distance from the center of the town. The easiest way is to walk in the street behind the Church.
Fantastic panoramic view of Sapa and its surrounding is the main highlight. If weather permits, great view of the whole Sapa town can be seen from top of the hill. Amazingly, the sky was clear when I was there. As if chasing the time with the fog, I shot so many pics of this wonderful view before the fog reappears.
As part of the entertainment, there is a local show whereby group of young boys and girls performing the traditional dances and play local music instruments. At the end of the dance, visitors are welcomed to join the mass dance.
It is an attractive quiet mountain town. Anywhere in the main town of Sapa can be reached within walking distance in few minutes, and without fear of getting lost. The center of the town is the big square in front of the Catholic Church. The main atraction is to see Sapa Weekend Market held in this town square. It is like an open market with ethnic groups selling souvenirs on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Nearby the Church, there is a small street with many small shops on both sides. Follow this street and we end up in a bigger street opposite the wet local market selling fresh vegetables, fruits and meats. Turn left, and along this street there are many hotels, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, art gallery, etc. Many business establishments in Sapa are in the tourism industry, and some of them are dedicated to support to people from the minority groups.
By spending four days, Sapa could be another long “weekend gateway” destination in Vietnam. It is a good place for relaxing, to be away from the busy cities and to cool down.