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Sapa Vietnam and what you should know

Sapa Vietnam is already a well-known destination in Vietnam for travellers who love trekking and exploring mountainous areas. In Sapa, you will find an interesting mixture of ethnic minority groups, together with breathtaking terraced rice decorating the landscape.

 How to get to Sapa
Nowadays it’s very convenient to go to Sapa from Hanoi. You can go by train, by sleeping bus, limousine bus, or motorbike. A bus is probably your best option, as you will find it much cheaper than a train, and bus companies will pick you up from your hotel. It takes around 6 hours to get from Hanoi to Sapa. The train remains a popular option, though it will cost more and take longer.

 Where to go in Sapa
3 to 4 days is enough to explore Sapa. Sapa Town is the main hub of tourism in the region, with plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs and massages parlors. However, many tourists prefer staying in homestays, just out of town amongst the rice fields and villages. Trekking is the most interesting part of the trip, which you will follow your local guides and hike through forests on muddy land. The trekking is not too hard, though on rainy days it can be very slippery. The local guides are very experienced and will be more then willing to help you if you need.

• Fansipan legend
Known to many as the roof of Indochina, Fansipan is a challenge any traveller would want to conquer. Until recently, reaching the mountain peak took several days, but now it is much easier with a cable car. Only 20 mins in the cable car, it costs you 700,000 Vnd (~30$) for a return trip. Once you exit the gondola, you will still have around 600 stairs to climb before reaching the peak. If you are lucky enough to go here on a sunny day, you will be treated to the best picturesque views of Sapa’s mountainous landscape, from more than 3,000 meters!
• Stay overnight at homestay in remote villages
Many tourists agree that this is the best part of their trip. To get to your homestay, you will do trekking through forests and mountains with a distance of around 9km. Don’t panic, because this 9km is not hard trekking, you will find it very relaxing while walking deep into the valley. You may encounter some pigs or buffalos, while generally docile, its best to keep your distance. The homestay will be very affordable, you will have a chance to socialize with locals, try their homemade rice wine or cook traditional meals with them. After dinner, there are some bars and pubs around for you to hang out and grab some drinks, so you won’t be bored at night.

• Waterfalls
There are 2 popular waterfalls are Silver and Love waterfall. They are located nearby to each other, so it is easy to explore both. The best of the two is Love waterfall. Watching the silky water tumble down the rocks, then trickle through the reeds and bamboo clusters is an experience not to be missed.

• Bac Ha market
One of the biggest local markets in town, it is organized every Sunday morning. This is where locals come to exchange, buy or sell their products, often clothes or farm tools. The local market is always the beating heart of towns and villages in Vietnam, and this is one you won’t want to miss.

 Best time to travel to Sapa
Sapa is beautiful at every time of the year. Summer is when crops begin to blossom and locals start their harvest. The terraced rice paddies erupt into a lush green while in September and October these green paddies field will turn to a beautiful shade of yellow. Winter can be severe, with temperature reaching as low as 0 degrees. Very rarely, it is possible to see snow in Sapa, possibly to the only place in Vietnam where it may occur. Beware though, if it does snow, locals from all over the country will come in droves to see it!

 How to get around Sapa
All the sightseeing is not too far from Sapa town, you could get a taxi or motor driver take you to wherever you want. Or if you are confident with your driving you could hire a motorbike around 5$ per day and explore by yourself.

 Tips before going to Sapa
• Bring both summer and winter clothes. You won’t know when you might need them, as the weather can be hot in the daytime and cold in the nighttime, and sometimes, it can be quite unpredictable.
• Do not give money to the children who sell souvenirs on the street. Remember that receiving money gives them less of a reason to go to school. Be ready that they will follow you, beg you to buy their things.
• Don’t be surprised if you see some locals join your trekking, they will stay with you the whole time to help and chat with you. Though I found it helpful to have someone escort me on the way, when I find out at the end they will try to sell me bags, scarfs, souvenirs and remind me how dedicated they are on the way to help me, I do not feel happy anymore. If you are happy with them you could buy something small, though it’s not compulsory. They will be very persistent.
• Prepare small notes with you, it will be easier when shopping or buying food and drinks in Sapa. ATM’s are available in Sapa town.

Next time I visit Vietnam, I’ll look into Ha Giang.

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