- Encounters with locals
- Hiking / Trekking
Sapa is one of the best known destinations in northern Vietnam. At first I wasn't too keen on visiting it, but I was quickly won over by the stunning countryside!
I woke up the following morning, surrounded by mountains, above the clouds with a view of paddy fields stretching into the distant horizon. This is a superb place to go trekking through paddy fields and across the region's mountains, be it for one or several days. You can also explore the mountains by motorbike, in some place up to the Chinese border. It's a good way to quickly cover large distances.
During our trek we met loads of kids and villagers, all trying to sell us their wares. Feel free to drive a hard bargain!
We'd barely set foot in Sapa when street sellers started to swarm all over us... We spent the morning exploring the village, whilst trying to avoid them as much as possible; easier said than done. This little mountain village could be really charming, but it's a tourist trap and geared to make visitors spend money!
After lunch in a 'typical' restaurant, we decided to hire scooters and go on a tour. Riding around the rice paddies was excellent! Even the rain didn't put a damper on things.
In fact the rain and misty clouds over the rice fields was beautifully ethereal...
When I arrived in Sapa, I was immediately put under pressure as I was greeted by Hmong women who either wanted to sell me some handmade craft products like bracelets, bags and necklaces, or take me home with them to go hiking or rent a room from them for the night. Therefore, before reaching Sapa, you need to decide whether you want to go with the flow and follow one of these women, or if you'd prefer to go via an agency.
The town of Sapa is designed for tourists and, to my mind, has little going for it. Too many hotels, shops and restaurants in the streets mean that it's lost its authenticity. Nonetheless, Sapa is the starting point for many hiking trails in the region, which means it's still an important destination. If you love hiking, this is where you need to be!
From personal experience, the encounters I had with ethnic minority people in the Sapa region are some of my favourite memories of Vietnam. Long walks, breathtaking landscapes, encounters with the locals, nights spent in people's homes, and sharing day-to-day life with a local family: it was simply magical and unforgettable!
I enjoyed Sapa Market, which is open every day, where I ate several times - I was never disappointed and it's very cheap!