Just a heads up to sleepy weary travellers that arrive at the train station after a night on the train to watch out for the mini van scam. We arrived at 4:45 in the morning to be greated by the usual load of people wanting to take us by taxi to sapa as we just stepped off the train. After about 40m while still on the train platform there was a new minivan offering 60,000VND per person to Sapa. It seemed like a good deal considering it was pouring with rain. Anyway they said hurry hurry, we are about to go, My girlfriend and I got iinto the van together with another couple where we were asked to pay up front *first mistake* by one of 3 men that helped load the luggage. The van then sat there for about 10 minutes until everyone else got off the train. No one else got in the van. The door then opened and the man asked us to get out. This is when we thought why? He continued to ask and we then wanted our money back. He would not give it to us as he said you didn't give it to him or the ddriver but someone else. We still refused to get out and demanded to be take to Sapa, the driver then drove off the platform and to the public train and wanted us out. Anyway to cut a long story short and for me not to repeat the very loud arguement that we had, what they are doing is working in a 4 person team.
1. they get you in the van.
2. ask for the money up front by one man.
3. the man takes the money and then disapears
4. another man then asks you to get out because we didnt' pay him
5. passengers refuse
6. an arguement breaks out with much swearing and cursing
7. they play dumb and say we never paid.
8. they refuse to take us
If you want transport to Sapa, go to the carpark and negotiate with a taxi driver for no more than 300,000VND to SAPA
Its a shame when there is a small minority of these people in Vietnam that rip people off because they are the ones that stick in your mind!!
While some will tell you need to hire a guide to go into Cat Cat Village, there is really no reason to. The village is only 3 KM South of Sapa and the path is well marked and easy to follow. Just ask someone to point you in the right direction
You will need to be in decent shape to do this (and really any trecks in this area) but this path is mostly paved stairs up and down the moutain...remember it rains here often so bring rain gear and hiking boots with good traction and ancle support
Please note the area here is quite hilly so you will be climbing up and down the moutain to go to this village.
Unique Suggestions: While Cat Cat is a Homong Village it not as exotic as the other villages since it is so easy to get too...so do it first or on a day when you have some time left over and you still have the energy to do some trecking.
Note these children are wearing western clothing...not their traditional clothing...note young children in Vietnam (especially the rural areas) do not wear diapers so they are often without bottoms all together