Anyone visiting the North of Vietnam should visit Sapa. The journey to Lao Cai on the overnight sleeper train is an adventure in itself. Then an hour long bus ride along twisting mountainous roads, up into a higher altitude above and beyond the clouds. To say the views are breath taking would be an understatement.
Sapa is close to the Chinese border and populated with ethnic minority tribes who have lived and worked on the land for centuries. The awe inspiring landscapes are perfect for getting back to nature and trekking is a popular activity in Sapa. The mountains have been sculpted into terraces for growing rice which are spread out in to the distance as far as the eye can see.
The Black H’Mong women lead treks up into the mountains, where you can visit villages, see traditional houses and even experience a home stay in the mountains. The women are industrious and resourceful, they make clothes and souvenirs which they cunningly sell to tourists during the trek. Most backpackers leave with at least one bracelet, but many end up purchasing scarves, bags, wall hangings and place mats.
Trekking in the heat over rough terrain can be arduous and the Black H’Mong ladies put everyone else to shame. Wearing full tribal dress and flip flops, carrying their items for sale and often with a baby strapped to their back, they sprint up and down like mountain goats. They have little formal education but most speak excellent English and will chat about home life and their children.
We arranged our trip through a travel agent in Hanoi. It cost US$115 each and included the night train to Lao Cai, bus transfer to Sapa, a day and a half of trekking, one night in a hotel, all meals, return transfer and night train back to Hanoi. Although it is more expensive than some trips, it is excellent value for money and definitely worth it. We only wished we could have stayed for longer, but we had already booked the night bus on to Hue so it was too expensive to change our plans.
The photos we have included do not do justice to the true scale and intensity of the landscape, Sapa is a place you need to see to believe.