I usually travel alone but this time is different as I’m catching up with my highschool best friend. We haven’t met each other for 2 years as she’s studying in the States and I’m in Melbourne, Australia. Words cannot describe how happy we are, seeing each other at our hometown (Danang, Vietnam), hanging out together and eating local food. We planned to celebrate our New Year in the Northern Vietnam, and of course we can’t miss the quietly beauty – Sapa.
I have traveled throughout the whole country, but last times were with my Mom or Dad. Experiencing the traveling alone is of course more fun as I can do everything I want. What I’ve heard about Sapa is the rice fields, the ethnic minorities, the foggy scenes…
And of course I have experienced those in this trip. What you people might not know is that in order to reach Sapa, you have to get on the 9-hour old train from Ha Noi to Lao Cai province, then another hour by bus from Lao Cai to Sapa. Usually people take the train at night, have a sleep and reach the place once they wake up the next morning. However, being in the train is such a hassle. I don’t feel comfortable with the seat, or people talking loud at night, or the stink toilet if you’re unlucky to get the back seat. It is not uncommon that you have to face those situations as it happens everywhere when you’re traveling. My point is that you should be prepared yourself before reaching the beautiful scenes in Sapa
In winter, there are more foreign visitors than local tourists. They came here to celebrate the New year and also to enjoy the weather which is similar like their hometown. The local people in Sapa told me that the Asian tourists came to Sapa during summer (April – August) when the weather is cooler. One waiter that I met in the bar asking me why there are more Aussie travelers from August to November. I can’t answer him. The photos below is the restaurant where he works. They also have a bar upstairs. By the way, his restaurant serves very delicious pizzas.
Going to Sapa in winter, you should be prepared to see a lot of fog. Me and my friend came to Sapa in the morning but it looks like late afternoon. It’s wet everywhere and so you may need the boot to avoid the dirt.
Some places that are very easy to spot on: the catholic church, or Cho Sa Pa (Sa Pa Market)
The kids speak English quite well, but the only issue is that they keep asking the visitors to buy the souvenirs. You are welcome to take photo with them but then you have to pay some money. Anyway, you can get to know a lot about Sapa and people here through talking with the kids
Even though a lot of people say Sapa is now so commercalized, I still see the beauty of eat, the wilderness somewhere on the face of the minorities. Not the ones that keep asking visitors to buy souvenirs, but ones that just staying inside their home and watching over ‘strange’ people outside.
I missed the chance to visit Cau May & Ham Rong, but CatCat Village is very nice, with the views of rice-fields and the spring. I’ve never enjoyed Sapa that much without the help from the waiter in the bar that we met. He’s willing to ask his boss a day off and took us to CatCat village and give us some brief info about this wonderful land. If you’re an adventurist, you should try trekking to Phanxipang which is the highest mountain in the Indochina area (Lao-Vietnam-Campuchia)