Out of Hanoi-Sa Pa, Hanoi
Located in Vietnam's remote northwest mountains, Sapa is famous for both its fine, rugged scenery and also its rich cultural diversity. It is an incredibly picturesque town and area that lies in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range near the Chinese border in north-western Vietnam, known as "the Tonkinese Alps". Sapa and its surrounding region is host to many hill tribes, as well as rice terraces, lush vegetation, and Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam. However, as a result of a recent surge in popularity Sapa has rapidly become a tourist hotspot where money is the new drug of choice. Don't be put off by the rush, your explorations of the surrounding countryside will be worth the trouble.
I travelled to Sapa as part of a 4 day/3 night tour with et-pumpkin who are based in Hanoi. Everything was done for me and I travelled from Hanoi to Sapa via train and bus where they even have their own 1st class train carriage which was very nice. I arrived at their hotel in Sapa called the Pumpkin Hotel and got given a good sized twin room all to myself plus I had all my meals here during the 2 days I stayed here before and after my 2 day trek.
Day 1 of my trek started the following day which took me from Sapa to a village called Ta Vin where we stayed with a Zay family overnight. After climbing down from Sapa and just making out the rice terraces through the mist, we walked through the village of Lau Chai, after having lunch, past pigs, ducks, buffalo and some lovely wooden houses. We got to our overnight home stay in the village of Ta Vin where our beds were upstairs on the floor while they cooked our evening meal on a small open fire in the kitchen area where the food was fantastic.
Day 2 of the trek started with breakfast and we left and started to make our way up the valley along some very muddy paddy fields where my feet slipped all over the place even though I had on brand new boots which I had bought in Sapa. We came to the village of Giang Tachai which is a Zao village and visited inside a house which was very interesting. The village had only had electricity for the last couple of years and the school had only been built in 2004. We had lunch near the river and I said goodbye to my fellow tour party as I had to make my way back to Sapa and they went their way to another village for another overnight stop. I got back to Sapa and spent the night at the same hotel.
Day 3 took me down to the cultural village of Cat Cat. A 17-year old Black Hmong girl, who was on the first day trek to Ta Van, took me here where we headed downhill past wooden houses selling more textiles. We then came to a museum sort of place which displayed some ethnography items such as musical instruments, tools etc and then carried on down to some waterfalls. I then had the afternoon to myself before being taken to Lai Cai and the overnight train back to Hanoi. I really enjoyed my tour and trek and it was really good fun to stay with an ethnic minority family.
SA PA town is located 1650 m above sea level in north-west Vietnam in the province LAO CAI. Sa Pa means "town of sand" in Chinese. The northern Vietnam usted to be known as Tonkin, hence the name of Sa Pa Area - TONKINESE ALPS.