Magical Sapa, Vietnam
Rice fields forever
Day 1 in Sapa:
Today was unbelievable. You know those fantasy lands you dream up as a child? That is what you will see when you travel Sapa. The little mountain town sits in the North of Vietnam. Mist fills the sky and lush green rice fields spread for miles in all directions. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a unicorn and rainbow appeared in the distance.
On my tour of Sapa
Our night train from hotel in Hanoi Newvision arrived in the town of Lao Cai where I took a bus about an hour up into the mountains to Sapa I had prearranged to spend two days and two nights on a tour led by a woman named Hong who I was referred to by a girl I met in Bangkok. Hong picked me up when I arrived in Sapa and took me to a little hotel where I would spend my first night. After finally showered and taking my clothes to be laundered, Hong and I hit the road on her motorbike! Our first stop was down the mountain to a little village called Ta Phin where the local Red Dzao people live. The women wear traditional clothing and are distinguished by their red scarf headpieces. Hong had arranged for me to visit a family and their home. The woman, her husband, and her three children shared their home with five other women. The Dzao are known for their extremely intricate embroidered handiwork. They showed me their little craft area and I bought one of their traditional headscarves from them after they fully dressed me in one of their own outfits.
After leaving Ta Phin we rode for almost an hour up the mountain to see a few of the amazing waterfalls Sapa has. On the drive there Hong informed me that she was the first woman in Sapa to start her own tours and has been helping her other female friends by teaching them English and how to give guided tours. You go girl! She also informed me of the difficulties of life here in Vietnam. Women do most of the work in Sapa and a lot of husbands are known to be drunks and abusive. She said her husband is an exception and that he does work but it’s difficult for him to give tours because he doesn’t know English. She has a two and and a five year old that live with their grandmother because she has to work so much. Her oldest daughter has just started school and it costs 4,000,000 dong (almost $200) each year to send her to school. College is a whole different animal but something incredibly valued in their society. It was an honor to have such an amazing woman as my guide!
Quaint little Sapa town
We made it up to a huge waterfall surging over the cliff of one side of a mountai. We trekked up until we reached a bridge that splits it at the middle. It was so beautiful! After hanging out in the splash zone for a while, we got back on the road. We drove another 20 minutes up the mountain to Heaven Gate where you could see a trench in the mountains that seemed to go on forever until it vanished in the distant haze. Another few minutes down the mountain and we reached another waterfall, Love Waterfall. We trekked about 2 km to reach it. The waterfall came down over the edge of a mossy stone edge of the mountain and into an ice cold pool. I took my shoes off and let the cold water run over my feet while I gazed up at nature’s incredible creation.
Hong dropped me back off at my hotel once we got to Sapa and I spent the evening walking around Sapa’s cute little streets. Sapa town has a lot of French influence and the buildings are all brightly painted with European style balconies and clay tiled rooftops. There is a beautiful lake in the center if town where there are flower beds, cute little lampposts and park benches, and even swan boats available for rent. It almost felt like I was in a romantic little European mountain town. Tomorrow Hong is picking me up at 9:30 am to get our day started early. We are staying with a local family tomorrow night after visiting a few other villages throughout the day.
Just hangin out
Day 2 in Sapa:
I can’t believe today marks the first day of the last month of my travels. I had noodles and coffee for breakfast yet again! Hong picked up food at the market this morning for our home stay and two days of trekking and adventure. We drove by motorbike to Ta Van village and trekked through the Lao Chai and Y Linh Ho villages. The Hmong people dress in all black and use indigo to dye the fabric they make by hand. In many homes there were big vats of the indigo concoction and big wooden looms. They also are pretty ingenuitive in building these machines to peel the grain of rice from it’s little shell. It’s a sort if teeter totter thing and when one side fills with water running from the stream and then gets heavy and empties, the other side comes smashing down into a tub of rice.
Helping cook lunch with the family
We visited the school in each little village and made lunch with a family in Tan Van. They were making rice wine in a giant barrel when we arrived. If I had time two stay two months I would’ve been able to taste it! I helped make lunch with the family and after eating we drove all the way to Ban Ho village at the base of the mountain. Hong arranged a home stay with a family that lived in a beautiful old wooden home. We walked around town and grabbed banana Popsicles. Normally the weather is very mild and cool in Sapa, but today was exceptionally hot. When we arrived back at our family home, we started the long process of preparing dinner. Hong arranged for us to have vegetable spring rolls with homemade sweet chili sauce, steamed rice, veggie soup, steamed pumpkin, and fried river fish. After a full day of adventure we called it an early night in anticipation for our last day of the tour in the morning.
Little red dragonfly
This morning we started our day off with, you guessed it, noodles! On our way back to Sapa we stopped for one final trek in Giang Ta Chai Village. We walked about 2 miles over a river to the other side of the mountain which I hadn’t been to yet. I feel like I’ve run out of adjectives to describe how insanely magical Sapa, so I’ll just say it was insanely beautiful! We got back to Sapa Town around 11 am where I bid farewell to Hong. If you ever, and I highly advise you do, come to Sapa you absolutely 100% need to have Hong show you around. She is a true gem.
Everywhere I visited during my stay in Sapa