Sapa – A Vietnam Traveler’s Mountain Destination
Sapa is an ideal destination for almost any Vietnam traveler. If you’re looking to escape from the summer heat, you could do worse than hop on an overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa via Lao Cai train station. Today, it’s a popular destination for numerous Vietnam travelers – after all, it was created as a hill station by the French in the 19th century.
You will not be disappointed. Sapa lies about 1,600 meters above sea level and is pleasantly refreshing in summer compared to the coastal lowlands. You can see the terraced rice paddies from the edge of town or from the window of your hotel room. You’ll also have a fantastic view of the forest covered Hoang Lien Son Mountains.
Arrange for a guide in advance or search out a local ethnic guide if you feel the need. Rent a motorbike and visit the Giay people’s village in Ta Van Commune, which nestles in the hills some 10km from Sapa town center along a tree-lined winding road.
Hiring a local guide will allow you to to learn some of the customs of the local minority tribes. Several of the minority villages you could visit are Cat Cat, Sin Chai, Ta Van Giay and Lao Chai. You’ll find these minority villages nested into the sides of mountains by the side of a stream.Home Stays – experience the daily life of mountain minority tribes.
The “home stay” experience provides travelers a look into the daily life of the minority peoples. Home stay hosts provide traditional meals consisting of locally grown fruits, vegetables, and free-range cattle and poultry.
In response to the emerging popularity of “home stays” among foreign travelers, a number of houses have added second floors to provide a “private” area to stay when not interacting with their hosts.
Some of the older homes have “resident” wild swallows that have built nests for generations. Home owners take pride in their feathered guests, often pointing the bird families out to guests.
Another attraction welcomed by some Vietnam travelers: Some villages offer a break from the busy “marketing” in the streets of larger towns and cities of Vietnam. Just a quiet day or two in an out of the way mountain village.
You can return to Hanoi by returning to the Lao Cai train station and then getting aboard a night train. If you have time on your itinerary you can take the loop west to Dien Bien Phu and then south and east back to Hanoi via tour bus … Or if you’re really adventurous – a motorbike.
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