The Sapa Valley is, without a doubt, my favorite place in Vietnam. After spending nearly a month touring the East Coast and experiencing its nerve-wracking motorcycle-taxis and marketplaces, arriving at Sapa was to finally be at peace. Sapa is a small town located at 1600 meters above sea level in the green mountains close to the Chinese border.
The town itself is nothing special: it’s a colonial city founded by the French, but the truth is that today it has been ravaged by tourism, restaurants, pubs, and souvenir stands. In short, it has become almost unrecognizable. However, Sapa is ideal for excursions and hiking to see the local ethnic-minority Hmong, Tay, Dao, and Nung tribes. These people cultivate immense rice fields that stretch as far as the eye can see and form an incredibly beautiful landscape of terraces.
Every day, the main square of Sapa is filled with women who come on foot from their villages to sell handicrafts to tourists. I was very surprised by their good English and friendliness, nothing to do with the rest of the country. Many of these women will also rent beds in their homes for a small sum. I couldn’t do it because my visa was about to expire, but I’m convinced that the experience would be worth it.
I won't lie: Sapa is touristy, yes, but you also have plenty of space for yourself and the place is totally different from the rest of Vietnam. Even the women seemed charming, despite the fact that they could get a bit pushy selling their scarves and shawls.
To get to Sapa, take a train or bus from Hanoi and you'll arrive in Lao Cai in 8 hours. From there, you'll have to take another bus.
In the limestone islets of Halong Bay's, there are many caves, but you can't visit them all, even the ones you want. The Vietnamese government and army have everything very organized. Hang Sung Sot cave is one of the largest, with three huge chambers that can only be accessed by a small boat. The big boats are anchored in the small bay right in front, and personally, I thought that they were the best part of the visit. The entrance to the cave is at a certain point. There are a few steps to climb, and with the heat and humidity, it's a bit of a challenge. At the top, there is a wonderful aerial view over the islets and boats. It looks like something from a pirate movie. The cave itself is great, but it's illuminated with brightly coloured Asian style, and is quite full of tourists, which is kind of sad. I've been much more beautiful caves here in Spain, but you have to visit to see for yourself!
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The journey by train from Hanoi to Lao Cai in northern Vietnam can be done by a sleeper train, which has very good conditions. We did the trip in 4 carriages with very comfortable beds (they are called soft sleepers). The linen and pillows are always very clean. A bottle of mineral water awaits you on the bedside table and there is a small single lamp for you to read comfortably. At the station you can find some small restaurants (modest).
The most popular hiking routes are: Lao Chai to visit the village of Tovan and the Giay mountain tribes, the bamboo forest, the village of Giang Ta Chai of the Red Dao, Matra, the village of Taphin, and the Gio Cave. In some cases, you can take a car to the trailhead so you don’t have to walk along the open highway. You can also have cars pick you up again at the end.
So, what’s there to see during your treks? Aside from seeing the different villages, tribes, and customs, you’ll also see amazing landscapes of rice paddies, bushy pineapple forests, bamboo forests, and jungles. Sometimes the trails are surrounded by gardens full or orchids and exotic flowers. Simply amazing.
As I mentioned before, my trip to Vietnam coincided with the Tet New Year, there were many days of colour, music, joy and celebration for the Vietnamese. These photos were taken on the streets of a small town in the early morning hours when we went walking in the city. The "carnival" was composed of young boys, who, to the rhythm of the music (drum and a traditional instrument), were waving silk dragon and stopping at small shops in their path. As they danced, the merchants threw money in black cloth bags at them. As is tradition, everyone gives donations in hope that the year will be prosperous, and that health and fortune will come to their homes.
From native belonging to one of the many ethnic groups in the country. Well, it was a unique experience being able to spend a few days living the way these people do. That is, sleeping, eating breakfast, dining, and traveling like them. How peaceful it is to be out of the modern world and barely have electricity, it's the jungle at its best. They live on subsistence agriculture and livestock and earn some money from some tourists who come here.
But thanks to this preserve this way of life as authentic. After these days magic the way back to the world mean taking an eighteen hour-drive (18 hours). We have come to Bac, which is one of the meccas of ethnic peoples of the northwest mountains of Vietnam. We are in a basic hotel but with good views. Tomorrow we will go to Sapa, which is one of the shrines of tourism in Vietnam. We will continue telling you our experiences. A big hug for everyone s. PS: For now my Facebook is censored.