Was a bit surprised when a Vietnamese from Hanoi at a hotel up in Sapa was "badmouthing" the local Hmongs. Apparently there is an element of mistrust between the groups. It was said that the many of the hill tribes had sided with the French against the Vietnamese. But that was history.
Out of the over Vietnam's 70 million population, 6-7 millions are from over 54 ethnic groups.
Ethnic minority groups with members numbering upwards of 500,000 include the Tay (Tho), Tai (Thai), Hmong (Meo or Miao), Muong (Mol) and Nung.
Favorite thing: Most of the villages around Sapa is primarily villages of Black Hmong. You can go by guided tours to further villages of Red Hmong, Dao and other tribes. As security permission are required to be applied by the tour agents, try to arrange as soon upon arrival in Sapa or while in Hanoi. If you are travelling alone or in a small group, getting other fellow travellers to join will make it financially more viable for these longer trips to be arranged. An overnight stay in a traditional home may be a wonderful option.
If your schedule is possible, try to visit Sapa on weekdays when there are fewer tourists. On weekends, you will run into tourists who may outnumber the locals.
I went on a weekday and got all the attention of the local trying to sell me something.
It is nice to share the mountain air with less people.
If you want to take photographs of green lush rice fields, it is important you come at the right season. I was there in August, it was green and wonderful. Another friend went on a different time of the year and saw brown empty fields after harvest instead.
So check on the rice planting season if you have a choice of which month to go to Sapa.
I bought my Sapa train+van+hotel+tour package in Hanoi. I was shown pictures of a nice new hotel overlooking the valley. When I arrived at my hotel in Sapa, the only room left was a windowless room. I decided to protest and finally upgraded my room by paying more and got a fantastic large room with a balcony and wonderful valley view.
So be sure that when you pay for your package to specify that you want room with a balcony and a valley view. It is worth it.
Favorite thing: Almost all the hotels at Sapa have good locations overlooking the mountains and towns, including Royal View Hotel which I stayed. The views from my room balcony were fantastic as well as the restaurant of the hotel. I was very lucky that the weather was clear and sunny during my visit :)
Favorite thing: When you are in Sapa, it is very likely that you will see or be approached by children of the ethnic minority groups. These children are very cute but some of them will ask for money or some gifts from you. You will also see many children during you trek to the various villages.
Favorite thing: Because Sapa is in a mountainous region, there are many beautiful valleys and rivers in this region. During trekking, you will be able to experience their beauty and might, and they will make your trekking tougher because you need to go up, down, sideways and crossing the bridges across the rivers :)
Favorite thing: Besides the water buffalos and black pigs, you will be able to see lots of poultry at the villages and rice terraces of Sapa. You will see the mother hen and her chicks walking around, the ducks swimming in the water or sun-tanning and there are also horses roaming around in these places (you will sometimes see the horses galloping, very beautiful indeed).
Favorite thing: There are lots of bamboos along the trekking trails of the villages. These bamboos are useful to the locals for construction purposes and they are also used as mini-canals to transport water from the rivers and streams to the houses (see last photo).
Favorite thing: When I was in Sapa with my wife in mid December 2006, there was a Sapa Fair at the town square area near to the Sapa market. An entrance fee was required to enter this fair (cannot remember how much, but it was very cheap) and a lot of shops selling all kinds of stuff were displayed. If you are visiting Sapa in December, maybe this Sapa Fair may be here again when you are there :)
Favorite thing: During trekking to the villages and rice terraces, you will see many cute black pigs at the rice terraces. They are either feeding or lazy around, and I wonder whether they are delicious compared to the normal pig :)
Favorite thing: I took a lot of photos at Sapa and attached are some photos which I would like to share with all VT members besides those already in the various tips and travelogues. More photos are at part 2 and 3 of this tip for you to enjoy.
Favorite thing: I took a lot of photos at Sapa and attached are some photos which I would like to share with all VT members besides those already in the various tips and travelogues. More photos are at part 1 and 3 of this tip for you to enjoy.
Favorite thing: I took a lot of photos at Sapa and attached are some photos which I would like to share with all VT members besides those already in the various tips and travelogues. More photos are at part 1 and 2 of this tip for you to enjoy.