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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
Dependence on the suggestions on handbook or less consultation from the tour office and hotel staff can make you spend money "injustice" in many services that would otherwise be entitled to the price more incentives.
Whether on specific travel plans, will be unavoidable when you withdraw for a lavish meal with a delicious sense or pay a ton of money for unexpected trouble along the way. The problem so in fact it is possible to control, but many tourists are often ignored by some spending habits below.
1. Do not use travel insurance
Before the trip, almost anyone tell myself "is just a short journey and I'm not having something dangerous." However, no one knows what will happen. You may have to spend funds cure even bigger insurance rates if accidentally crash.
2. Do not Know Money Management
In cases such as the sale of goods or currency exchange, you usually never pay attention to choose the best plan. This can be considered as the foundation leads to more spending most prone to extravagance.
One of the "fighting" for the shortage of money management skills that you can use a credit card or cash withdrawals at ATMs. Note that take advantage of the branch partner bank where you open an account, because they can help visitors to withdraw cash from ATMs free travel on the road.
3. Rushing to buy airline tickets
Before the trip, many people are often too excited and flight bookings before long period of time to help impatiently. In contrast, a few tourists wander and too busy with work delayed until the last minute rush stem tangerine set.
Both alternatives were considered and could easily mistake about "profligate". The solution is so early booking is only 2-3 months because prices are not fixed and depends very much on economic factors such as the price of gasoline, oil, supply and demand market.
4. Enjoy culinary travel guide book
The restaurants, bars printed in the tourist brochures always determine who your customers are. And if they had known tourist information shop through suggestions from the handbook, service prices are often more a part of the team. To control this problem, you can go to the portal free of food, ask a friend or researched online before you visit the shop.
5. Please suggest the wrong way
Even the wise traveler, many people still unavoidable situations cry smile when questioned briefly "Eat Where to now?" With the natives. Usually they will be directed to the famous restaurant, specializing in travel for people with expensive prices.
6. Skip the tourist office
The tourist office where information is cognizant of cultural activities, entertainment, local festivities you are visiting. If you ignore this channel information, travelers may miss the fun and even pay high prices for other services.
7. No reference hostel staff
The hostel (hostel) is usually cheap place to stay and very hospitable. Therefore, if you only consider this place to reside few hours at night and completely ignore the hostel staff are likely to be highly wasteful spending. Even if only a short night, travelers should still consult and ask the hostel staff suggestions for eating, playing nearby at affordable prices.
8. Do not negotiate directly room
Price booking through the website often advertised as incentives and promotions together. However, hotels, inns still have to pay a commission to intermediaries to posting and you are contributing to the payment of this amount.
Call communication and negotiating directly with the hotel, motel will increase the chance to save a lot of room, but this is what most visitors ignore.
9. Ignore the point card service area
If you do not collect the flight path or points accumulated from the hotel, you may be squandering huge amount over time. Many people even get free airline tickets or hotel rooms rented for special incentives for the clientele.
10. Do not use the card tourists
Some countries in the world are often equipped with card services for tourists who visit the country at a relatively reasonable cost. When a card, you are entitled to incentives at the places, landscapes and use local services. Guests usually ignore this kind of spending more costly fees, not to mention also suffer queuing to visit places, landscapes.