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Sapa Travel Guide
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Sapa lies in the very north west of Vietnam near the Chinese border. Along with Halong Bay it is the “other” major excursion from Hanoi. Time permitting you can do a circuit around the northwest highlands which takes in Mai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau and finally Sapa before heading back to Hanoi. This would take at least a week by private vehicle and longer on local buses. During the wet season roads can be treacherous with landslides common. The best time to visit is from March to May and from September to mid-December.
In reality the vast majority of visitors arrive in Sapa from Hanoi via Mai Chau and don’t go on to discover the spectacular scenery of the Tonkinese Alps where Montagnard hill tribes have lived for centuries.
In Sapa these local people have quickly adapted to the incursion of tourism and it’s a common sight to see local women from the hill tribes pursuing foreigners down the main street bartering over colourful clothing and souvenirs. You might find this over the top in Sapa and would benefit from a trip out into the more remote villages where tourism hasn’t had such a nasty social impact. The Montagnards aren’t complaining though as many of them have grown relatively wealthy on the back of the new found cash economy.
Things to Do and See in Sapa
Sapa is such a colourful town thanks to the H’mong and Dzao
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the local hill tribes who head into the town’s market every day to trade their produce. There’s a main market every Saturday when the place is packed but there’s a lower key one every other day during the week. These people will have undergone no formal education but the arrival of foreigners has made them well aware of the value of money and many of the youngsters have picked up a basic level of English. They sell clothing and handicrafts which are popular with tourists.
Read the exciting story of some Dutch travellers who visited the Sapa Valley which they describe at Adventure Travel Tales & Tips. Many visitors sign up for trekking expeditions out to local villages and beyond. All hotels and travel agencies in town offer half day visits to Cat Cat just 3km outside of Sapa and full day hikes to Ta Phin village which lies 10km outside town. Spectacular scenery abounds on all treks in the area. Overnight stays in minority villages such as Sin Chai are also popular options.
For stunning scenery you must get out to the Tram Ton Pass 15km from Sapa. At 1900m is the highest in Vietnam and connects Sapa to Lai Chau. All around you are surrounded by almost vertical rice terraces and stunning mountain peaks with regular mists hovering on them. The 100m high Thac Bac waterfall on the same route is spectacular.
For the seriously fit there is a hike to the top of Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak at 3143m. This isn’t a climb to be taken lightly with potentially treacherous conditions when the weather turns bad. From Sapa to the peak is only about 20km yet experienced hikers take three or four days to complete it carrying all their own equipment as there is no accommodation en route. Taking a local guide and even porters is highly recommended. If you are up to such a challenge the rewards are breathtaking.
When to Go to Sapa
The dry season is from January to June with March to May the best time to visit. Temperatures in January and February are regularly around 0ºC. The rainy season falls in June and August. September marks the end of the rainy season which is a good time to visit then by mid-December temperatures start to fall significantly making this September to mid-December period the best time to be there.
Getting to Sapa
Sapa is 380km from Hanoi and various options exist to get there. The most popular is to sign up for one of the overnight trips which includes a train journey to Lao Cai followed by minibus transfer up to Sapa. Many such trips are on offer in the travel agencies and hotels of Hanoi but from personal experience we have no hesitation in recommending Handspan Adventure Travel.
Sapa is a mountainous town in Northen Vietnam where you write poem, have your cameras on for most of your time, cheer over a community wine pot, learn to appreciate indigenous culture or just to escape Hanoi heat and city noise.
Being one of the most attractive tourism destinations of the country, Sapa is a precious gift that Mother Nature dedicates to Vietnam.
Location and history
350km far north-west from Hanoi, Sapa, the capital of Sapa District in Lao Cai Province, lies at the altitude of 1600m. With the temperature ranging from the lowest of -1oC to the highest of 29oC, Sapa’s climate is moderate and drizzly in summer while chill and foggy in winter.
Sapa (or Chapa- the “sandy place”) first appeared in Vietnam national map in the late 1880s when the French disembarked in highland Tonkin. The first permanent French civilian resident arrived in Sapa in 1909, and by 1920, there were a number of villas being built in this area by prosperous professionals. Going through many ups and downs, nowadays, Sapa is the prominent holiday destination, favored by both locals and foreign tourists.
Sapa - fairy home of ethnic minorities
There is nowhere in Vietnam can tourists easily meet the local ethnic minorities like in Sapa. The district is the home of a great diversity of ethnic people, including five main groups of Hmong, Yao, Tay, Zay and Xa Pho. They do not live in center area but in hamlets scattering on the valleys throughout Sapa District. Actually, not until the 20th
If you find yourself willing to spend the night in the hostel budget, start the day very soon or simply remain comfortable being alone, you can safely travel on the road without any of you companion to go along.
Traveling alone is the sense of fun and is considered the experience anyone should try at least once in their lifetime. However, for the trip goes smoothly, you need to understand themselves and accurate decision making. If there are freak about whether to travel alone, you try to do the following tests. With the answer is "yes" at least three times, so go ahead to plan and hit the road.
1. Easy to make friends
During the trip, you generally prefer to chat and make friends with new people. This can be seen as an important factor in traveling alone by the time it is needed the basic social skills, including communication.
2. Interest in the hostel than hotel amenities
The group of friends traveling together often cost saving plenty of accommodation. So many people still prefer the hotel and fully equipped, accept a slightly higher price with the idea of "dividing the average output will definitely cheaper". However, if you do not like the plan like this and still save up budget by at hostel (hostel), you can rest assured on the road traveling alone.
3. Be willing to eat cheap meals
Backpacking abroad, hardly anyone xênh enough steam to always to the luxurious restaurant to enjoy a luxury dish native place. A meal is cheap, fast, compact usually selected to suit the majority. If the budget is not too abundant and frequent concern for the deficit miss stumbled into expensive restaurants, you can calculate their own life planning personal tour.
4. Like the city of discovery rather than a blanket to sleep
Phượt walk and not depend on anyone, you always have the chance to admire the most beautiful time, is easy to adjust the schedule if necessary. Most people prefer to travel alone mingle and explore, learn the local culture. They are also willing to pick up early dawn or actively go out rather than taking advantage of sleeping in a blanket.
Meanwhile, travel in groups with major drawback is to choose the appropriate place large numbers. And if members just like to spend the day hanging out in bars or shopping at the trade center, there will be times when you feel frustrated and regret the trip.
5. Completely comfortable being alone
This sounds easy but when done, many people feel some difficulty. The timeout period before the flight and find friends along the way are often very lonely.
Be prepared for this feeling if you're planning to travel alone. Plan to do some activities to use reasonable time as well as how to repel solitude along the way.
6. No need to ask for permission before making plans
The most important thing in the dust phượt trip is independent in itself and the ability to make decisions. Quitting job and career aside to come to the streets can be considered very vague, and that ones around you extremely scared.
Because of these factors, if not afford to take responsibility and courage to do this, you should join the short day trip or a family vacation.
7. Be willing to wake through the night
One of these places can be enjoyed through the night as the bar - easy place to make friends, dance or learn about local youth lifestyle. Depending on where each culture has different bar. In addition, you can also try white felt strange night in the city and discover the beauty of the night.
8. No specific planning
Phượt journey across Europe or drive across America, no one will know what is going to happen. If the type of people are willing to accept everything and can easily overcome insecurity, you will be fit to go phượt without any companion does the same stem.
9. Always desire to step out to the world
Make travel around the world is not an easy thing, especially when you have to arrange schedules to suit family or companions. Each has its own life and different directions, so it is difficult to find someone easily traveled four pools with you in a long time.
Appropriate time make such trips as often as single. By the time a family and a stable job, willingness to give up everything to come to the journey is difficult and can affect many relationships around.