Vietnam is a place of contrasts: it’s vibrantly colored and each stop along the journey offers new adventures and discoveries. If I had to choose my favorite place among all the beaches, islands, markets, temples, mountains, and pagodas, I would definitely choose the Sapa Valley.
The Sapa Valley is an ideal place to immerse yourself in pure wilderness and the interesting customs of the local people. Most people choose to spend the majority of their time in the city of Sapa, and it is quite nice, but we decided to spend our time out exploring the valley.
We left our bulky packs at the hostel and took only the basics for 3 days of long hikes through the mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and remote villages of this stunning land, getting to know first-hand the lives and customs of the Hmong communities.
There are countless routes through the Sapa Valley and if you’re in the mood for hiking, I’d recommend taking a multi-day route. The farther you get from Sapa, the more authentic your experience.
To go hiking in Sapa, all you have to do is arrive and hire a local Hmong guide (you’ll find plenty in the street). We found a lovely hostel that took care of our bags and let us have a very welcome shower at the end of the trip.
In Ha Long Bay, tourists can enjoy the spectacular natural views of the floating villages. I went from Cat Ba Island, which are fishing villages. The inhabitants live on rafts. Life in these communities revolves around the water.
The village of Lang Dinh An is located a bit less than 20km. from Dalat and while in many respects it's just your average Vietnamese village, I'd recommend a visit for two main reasons:
First, it's a great excuse to escape from Dalat for a few hours and second (really, the main reason) is the giant chicken statue. That's right, a giant chicken in a village in the middle of nowhere in the Vietnamese mountains. Are you still undecided? Did I mention there's a giant chicken!? C'mon!
It's known among tourists as "Chicken Village" but if you ask a local using that name none of them will know what you're talking about. Honestly, if you as for Lang Dinh An it's entirely possible that won't know what you're talking about either. So, if you decide to visit, make sure to be patient and willing to spend several hours finding it. The journey itself is worth it. Though I went by bike, I wouldn't recommend it. A motorbike is much better and there are plenty of rental agencies in Dalat which are quite affordable.
Finally, you'll arrive at Chicken Village. The first thing you'll think is "that entire trip for THIS???" As I mentioned before, Lang Dinh An is a very small, very normal village (which is to say, it only has 1 "street") and isn't especially charming at that. But then you see the chicken. You can't miss it...it's a giant chicken that's several meters tall, impossible to miss.
The charm of Lang Dinh An resides not only in its giant chicken, but also in the locals. They're very friendly and will tell you the legend of the chicken and lots of other strange trivia about the place which, by the way, is inhabited by an ethnic minority which operates under a strict matriarchal system.
So...want to learn the story of the chicken? You should! It's an experience that is interesting at worst and amazing at best. I'm sure you'll love it!