Category Archives for "GOOD TO KNOW"

Apr 18

Sapa Stone Church: The Witness Of Sapa’s History

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW , WHERE TO GO

Quietly situated in the center of Sapa, Stone Church (as known as Holy Rosary Church) is one of a few remnants of the French colonization in Sapa. It was built in 1895 and demolished in 1952 by the French.  After the second demolition by the Chinese in 1979, it was repaired in 1994 and since then, Stone Church has become an important place in which many cultural activities have been organized by ethnic minorities in Sapa. Going through many events of history in Sapa, Stone Church is considered the witness of Sapa’s history.

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Stone Church stands right in the heart of Sapa and surrounded by a plenty of restaurants, hotels, and bars.  Thanks to its great location, Stone Church is probably the first place that every visitor goes upon arrival in Sapa. If your hotel/hostel is in the town center, then it just takes a few minutes to get to see Stone Church. In the past, Stone Church’s location was carefully calculated by the French architects who wanted the church to be seen from four directions. Lying in a flat area, the ancient church is overlooked by Ham Rong Mountain. Therefore, after visiting Stone Church, you can take a walk to see and enjoy the stunning view from Ham Rong Mountain-the heaven of exotic flora and fauna.

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The architecture of the inside and outside of the church still reflects the French culture and religion, which are noticeably presented in the walls, the roof, the windows, the bell tower and so on. Looked from outside, the ancient church resembles the shape of a crucifix originated from Gothic Roman architecture. The church area is comprised of seven compartments of more than 500 m2 and the 20-meter high bell tower in which there is a gigantic bell that is at the height of 1.5 meters and the weight of 500 kilos, which can resonate within a radius of 1 km. Going inside Stone Church, you will catch a sight of colorful windows, each presenting a period of Jesus’s life.

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Nowadays, Stone Church is a popular place in which many traditional activities of the ethnic minorities are taken place. In every Saturday evening, the special market called “Love Market” is organized in front of the church. It is where the hill tribe women and men from nearby villages come and meet each other, which is considered a unique tradition of ethnic minorities in Sapa. The “Love Market” is where love blossoms between men and women there. They talk, sing and dance together to express their affection for the apple of their eyes. The sound of instruments such as flute, trumpet leaves and so on combining with sparkling light from the fire creates a cannot-be-more-romantic scene. It is also really fun to dance with local people there.

sin-chai-village
Apr 07

Sin Chai Village: The Pristine Village In Sapa

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW , WHERE TO GO

Sin Chai village is only 4 km from the town center; thus, despite the fact that the trekking paths are hilly and seasonally muddy, I would suggest that you walk there yourself or join a trekking tour to go with a local guide given that you are in a good shape and fond of trekking. Otherwise, you can easily get there by either taxi or motorbike. It is easy to find a taxi in the town center and it costs around 3 USD to get to Sin Chai Village. If you want to create a more adventurous experience, you can rent a motorbike for a full day, which costs around 10 USD. Since the road around the village is really small as its width is only enough for one motorbike at a time, upon arrival at the village, you will have to continue walking around to discover the unspoiled beauty of Sin Chai as it is surrounded by photogenic natural setting formed by the vast rice terraces, lush forests, and crystal streams.

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Terraced rice field is the signature farming field of the northwestern mountainous provinces in Vietnam such as Lao Cai, Ha Giang, Lai Chau to name a few. If you want to view the beautiful scenery of the terraced rice fields, then Sin Chai village is an ideal destination. The vast picturesque rice terraces are the masterpiece of the H’mong people there. During the harvest season, which is from September to October, the village spots out with its yellow appearance. The shiny yellow color of the rice terraces blended with the bright green color of hill forests creates a lively drawing of nature. It is the best time for you to capture the marvelous grandeur of the terraced rice fields in Sin Chai Village. Besides rice farming, the H’mong people also grow corn and vegetables to supply for themselves as well as to exchange at the local market.

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Visiting Sin Chai Village, you will have a chance to not only see the vast terraced rice fields of the H’mong people there but also explore and learn more about their unique culture. The Black H’mong people’s wooden houses in Sin Chai village are rugged looking. The H’mong people in Sin Chai village still follow their traditional customs and lifestyle, living in harmony with domesticated animals and natural habitats surrounding them. The H’mong people in Sin Chai village are also well-known for their longevity. Especially, H’mong women live longer than H’mong men. There is no reliable explanation for this, but fresh air, clean environment, organic food, and gene are considered some elements attributing to the H’mong people’s longevity.

The best thing I like about this tranquil village is that there are absolutely no touts chasing tourists around. The local people are truly friendly and peaceful. While walking around the village, you can come across some kids happily playing with their buffalos in a nearby stream. If you want to get away from some touristy places and get in touch with the pristine nature, then Sin Chai village is definitely worth your visit.  There are several Sapa tours that include Sin Chai Village as one of the sightseeing destinations. For example, the one-day tour organized by Paradise Travel, with the itinerary: Sapa-Sin Chai-Cat Cat- Y Linh Ho, costs around 54 USD. The price covers transportation, meals, tour guide and entrance fee. For trekking lovers, there are many trekking tours to Sin Chai Village with reasonable price. For instance, Sapa Stunning View Hotel operates a one-day trekking tour to Sin Chai Village, offering the tour at a price of 15 USD/ person for a group tour and 25 USD/person for a private tour. Since Sin Chai village is on the same way to Cat Cat Village, it is advisable to choose the tour that includes these villages to save time.

thac bac waterfall
Apr 06

Thac Bac Waterfall (Silver waterfall): A Touch Of Nature

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW , WHERE TO GO

Famous for its breathtaking beauty, every year, Thac Bac Waterfall welcomes thousands of domestic and international visitors. 12 km from the town center and on the way to Tram Ton Pass-the highest mountain pass in Vietnam, Thac Bac Waterfall is located beside National Highway 14D, which is conveniently reachable accessible for visitors by either taxi or motorbike. From my experience, it is the best to see the stunning view of luxuriant forests and grandiose mountain ranges on the way to the waterfall while you are riding a motorbike, whose rental price is around 10 USD for a whole day. However, if you are too afraid to ride a motorbike, you can get there by taxi; one-way ride costs around 15 USD.

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During the rainy season, from July to September, you will have a see the best water show performed by the waterfall. Whereas during the dry season, there is not much water left and the view is less dazzling than it is during the rainy season. Surrounded by vast mountain ranges, the summer in Thac Bac Waterfall is always cool, which makes the waterfall become the best place for anyone who wants to escape from the disturbingly hot weather during the summer in the lowland.

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Visiting Thac Bac Waterfall at its best,you will be overwhelmed by the natural setting in front of you. From the height of 100 m, the waterfall races down in a series of cascades in the midst of lush foliage. The like-silver-color water, originating from the source of water in Lo Sui Tong mountain summit, streams down all year round, which explains the name of the waterfall (Thac Bac mean Silver Waterfall in English). The harmonization of natural elements such as water, air and soil is well-displayed in Thac Bac Waterfall. At the foot of the waterfall, listening to the sound of water falling and birds singing while seeing the picturesque nature around you will make you feel closer to nature than ever. Even inhaling cool and fresh air there can bring a peaceful feeling to you, the feeling that cannot be found when you are in a big city. There is a short walk stair which only leads to a small bridge which is at the middle height of the waterfall.

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Nowadays, there are a lot of tours to Thac Bac Waterfall operated by travel companies. Since Thac Bac Waterfall is on the way to Tram Ton Pass, the waterfall is often included in the one-day tour to the Heaven Gate which is in the peak of Tram Ton Pass, or in the three-day tour the Fansipan summit. If you oft for a less adventurous journey, you can choose the three-day tour with the following itinerary: Sapa-Cat Cat Village-Ham Rong Mountain- Thac Bac Waterfall. The price for this kind of tour is around 200 USD, which covers the fee of accommodation, transportation and tour guide. The price for a tour to Thac Bac Waterfall varies, depending on the season, the number of guests, service included and so on. Nevertheless, if you do not want to go on a tour, you can go there by yourself, but it is advisable to go with a local guide who is knowledgeable about the waterfall.

Muong-hoa-valley3
Apr 06

Muong Hoa Valley: What Do Need To Know

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW

It is also renowned as the largest farmland in Sapa, lined with vast rice terraces. From Muong Hoa Valley, you can head to nearby areas such as Lao Chai, Cau May or Ta Phin.  If you are planning to go to Muong Hoa Valley, there are a few questions you probably have in mind. If my answers are not sufficient, please leave a comment. Even if I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you.

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Muong Hoa Valley

  1.    How do I get to Muong Hoa Valley?

The valley is 10 km far from the town center. There are several ways to get to Muong Hoa Valley. The most common one is motorbike riding. If you know how to drive a motorbike, then you can rent one at some bike rental shops in the town center. But don’t forget to bring your driving license with you. Otherwise, you can catch a motorbike-taxi (known as xe ôm) which costs probably around 5 USD, depending on how well you can bargain. Riding a bike is a sound option for anyone who likes exercising; plus, it is easy to rent a bike in Sapa, but you have to check the bike carefully to avoid unwanted problems during your ride. For trekking lovers, a trek to Muong Hoa Valley is absolutely full of fun and surprises along the way, given that you are in good shape and capable of walking in long hours. If you are not a big fan of either bike or motorbike and trekking is never on your list, then you still can hire a private car to go to Tram Ton Pass and walk to Muong Hoa Valley.

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  1.    What makes Muong Hoa Valley so popular?

Muong Hoa Valley is a home of several ethnic minority groups such as H’mong, Red Dzao and Zay. The beautiful terraced rice paddy fields you will see when visiting Muong Hoa valley are the masterpiece of these people. Thanks to their hard work, the valley has become the largest farmland in Sapa. During the harvest season, from September to October, the valley will be engulfed in a mesmerizing yellow color, creating a stunning scenery that dazzles visitors. Moreover, Muong Hoa Valley is famous for the mysterious ancient carved rock field which is located in Ban Pho. The surface of the rocks there is all carved with different graphics and shapes, whose origins haven’t been identified yet. This mysterious rock field is considered precious heritage left by the ancestors. Another place that contributes to the popularity of Muong Hoa Valley is Ta Van Village.

Ta Van is a small village lying quietly inside Muong Hoa Valley. Visiting Ta Van Village, you will have a chance to not only enjoy the scenic view of a wonderful combo: rice terraces dotted with houses of ethnic minorities and vast mountain ranges. From the village center, you can walk to Muong Hoa River within a few minutes. Nowadays, Ta Van Village is a favorite destination for many tourists, which brings a lot of business opportunities to the residents there. Besides farming, local people also provide homestay service, private trekking tours as well as sell brocade products to tourists.

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  1.    What should I do to get the best out of Muong Hoa Valley?

From my experience, the best way to fully explore and enjoy Muong Hoa Valley is a trekking homestay. So what does a trekking homestay mean? It means you will have a day to trek and a night to rest at a local homestay. Through a trekking homestay, you will not only be able to explore beautiful spots in Muong Hoa Valley during your trek but also have a chance to immerse yourself into hill-tribe lifestyle and custom. You can book a trekking homestay from some reputable companies such as Sapa Ethic Travel or Sapa O’ chau. Nevertheless, there are many other options for you to enjoy Muong Hoa Valley, for instance, you can book a hotel in the town center and go on one-day tour to Muong Hoa Valley.  The tour price varies according to the number of guests, travel itinerary and service included. For example, Sapa O’Chau offers the tour package called Muong Hoa Village Treks-A day, priced at 25 USD per person for a group of 6. Joining this tour, you will trek through different places in Muong Hoa Village and in its neighborhood. At the final destination, there will be a pickup van waiting for you and drive you back to the town center.

  1.    Is there anything else?

Yes, there is a list of things you should keep in mind.

  •    If you go to Muong Hoa valley by motorbike, driving license is required. Bear in mind that the license should be issued in Vietnam and that no international license is legally substituted. In addition, the road to the valley is curvy; thus, riding slowly and carefully.
  •    You will have to pay 80000 VND ( around 4 USD) for the entrance fee to Muong Hoa
  •    The ethnic minority touts are very doggedly aggressive. Be firm with them and don’t hesitate to say “no” if you are not interested in buying from them.
  •    Pack light if you oft for a trek. Wear robust shoes and prepare snacks and water to keep you energized.
accommodation in sapa
Apr 01

4 Tips To Choose The Right Accommodation In Sapa

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW

Undoubtedly, choosing a right accommodation is an extremely important part of any trip because after all, it is where you are going to spend a few precious days to rest and relax.  While searching the information about accommodation in Sapa, at some points, you may feel paralyzed since there are so many options available. The 4 following tips will help you alleviate your suffer caused by “the paradox of choice”.

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Accommodation in Sapa Maps

  1.    Create your own criteria first

Before searching information about accommodation, you should start creating a list of criteria for your ideal accommodation. The sample list could include room rate, location, service, cancellation policy and so on. The more thorough your list is, the more quickly you will find your ideal accommodation.  In my case, my friend and I have a tight budget for our trip to Sapa; hence, we put the room rate is our first and foremost priority, followed by the other criteria such as location and service.  You can read my previous article about accommodation in Sapa to take a glimpse of what kinds of accommodation are available in Sapa.

  1.    Check the information about the accommodation carefully

Even when you have done your research based on your criteria and finally find the accommodation you like, don’t be rushed to book it right away. Take your time to check and verify all the information about the accommodation. For example, the room rate may not include breakfast and service charge; the room is not actually the same as the picture of it. Hence, it is advisable to read reviews about the accommodation on some trustworthy sites such as tripadvisor.com and agoda.com.

  1.    Contact directly the provider of accommodation that you are interested in

Although you can book online via some famous sites such as tripadvisor.com or agoda.com, it does no harm to contact directly to the accommodation provider. If there is any information you want to clarify, the best way is to call and ask the provider yourself.  Plus, you can even make a better deal if you call directly to the provider.

  1.    Avoid Vietnamese public holidays and weekends

It is highly recommended to avoid Vietnamese public holidays and weekends since these days are the time the majority of Vietnamese tourists choose to travel to Sapa.  The town is always crowded during these days; consequently, there are not enough accommodations for all tourists in a little town. Not only the room rate goes up dramatically but also it is much more difficult to book a room in any kinds of accommodation. If your travel itinerary falls into these days, make sure to book a room, at least, one month early.

Ga Lao Cai -Lao Cai Train Station
Mar 31

4 Pocket Tips About Transportation To Sapa

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW

In the article “How to get to Sapa”, I shared with you a lot of information about different means of transportations to get to Sapa. You will find some practical and the others unrealistic. For people who decide to go by conventional and safe transportations such as bus and train, the following pocket tips can be useful.

  1.    Buy tickets online

If you choose to go on a tour to Sapa, then you don’t have to worry about transportation since your travel agency will take care of it. However, if you travel by yourself and decide to use bus or train to go to Sapa, you should not go the station to buy a ticket yourself. There are two three reasons for that. First, the bus/train stations in Vietnam are not well-organized, always stuffed with a lot of people. It can be a difficult job for a foreigner to get through the chaos inside the station. Second, most receptionists at the station are not good at communicating in English. As a result, most of the time, you will find it struggling to explain your request to them. For these reasons, I suggest you book a ticket online.  Even though the price of an online ticket can be more expensive than that of a ticket sold in the station, you will get the ticket mailed to your hotel for free. There are several sites selling online tickets and available in English. For instance, you can find more information on the website: vietnam-railway.com for a train ticket, and sapaethic.com for a bus ticket.

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Hanoi Train Station

  1.    Avoid Vietnamese public holidays

Most Vietnamese choose to travel during Vietnamese public holidays.  Therefore, it is advisable to avoid going to Sapa in these days unless you want to be surrounded by a plethora of people all the time. If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle in Hanoi, going to Sapa during these days is certainly not a wise choice since the town is packed with a massive flow of Vietnamese tourists. Moreover, it is more difficult to book a ticket online during public holidays, plus, the ticket price will go up significantly. If you choose to buy tickets directly in the station, you might end up being in a long queue. In addition, if you buy a bus ticket from private operators in the bus station, some will charge you for a higher price.

  1.    Arrive early at the bus and train station

To find the exact train or bus in the station is absolutely a no-brainer job. In other words, expect to get lost in bus or train station in Hanoi. I am not saying that to scare you. My friends and I almost missed the train to Sapa for convincing ourselves that if we knew the train, we would find it easily. It took us almost 15 minutes, running around to find the door to our train. Beside the fact that the train station was chaotic, being in hurry state made us confused and panic. Luckily, we finally got on the train on time since the train got delayed for 5 minutes.  From this incident, I always arrive at the bus/train station at least 20 minutes early. Although the train or bus may get delayed sometimes, it is still better to wait than miss it, right?

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Lao Cai Train Station

  1.    Always keep an eye on your possessions  

As the proverb says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Hence, it is imperative to watch your own stuff. Many bus/train passengers reported having their stuff stolen while they slept or stopped being vigilant for a few minutes. To be fair, these incidents do not happen all the time. Nevertheless, it is better to be aware of this problem and learn how to protect your own valuables than to count on the local police to help you find your stolen stuff.

motobike for rent
Mar 29

Transportation To Go Around Sapa

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW

1. Motobike

Motorbike is probably the most common thing you come across once you get to Vietnam. It is true that most Vietnamese prefer commuting by motorbike because of its flexibility and cost-efficiency. In Sapa, the scene is a bit different since you may see a lot of foreigners going around the town by motorbikes. If you opt to ride a motorbike to get to know Sapa better, you can choose either to go on a motorbike tour or to rent a motorbike from hotels or motorbike rental shops

  • Go on a motorbike tour

 Going on a motorbike tour, you will ride in a group which is supervised by an experienced local guide. There are various motorbike tour agencies that you can find on the Internet. They offer a variety of tour packages which are tailored in terms of tour length, destinations and services included. A motorbike tour is particularly recommended for anyone who would like to go further and explore other places near Sapa.

  • Rent a motorbike

 There are numerous motorbike rental shops in Sapa; therefore, you can easily find one in the town center or ask the receptionist at your hotel to help you rent a motorbike. Nowadays, to meet tourists’ needs, many hotels add motorbike rental to their services. The rent price varies from 5 USD to 10 USD, depending on types of motorbike, duration (full-day or half-day) and fuel deal (included or excluded). If you don’t go further than Sapa, then it is highly recommended to choose the deal with fuel included since it is not easy to find a gas station in Sapa to fill the tank yourself.

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Before making your choice, you should keep in mind a few following things:

  • No driving license is required for any motorbike that has an engine capacity of 50 cc or less. Riding a larger capacity motorbike, you will be requested to show your driving license if you are stopped by a local police officer. The fine could be expensive if you don’t have Vietnamese issued driving license which cannot be substituted by international issued one. Hence, it is advisable that you go with a Vietnamese or go on a motorbike tour to avoid this.
  • The roads in Sapa can be very dangerous during the rainy season. Thus, you must ride slowly and cautiously especially on wet, hilly and windy roads.
    2. Bike

Going around Sapa by bike gives you a chance to not only discover the hidden gems in Sapa but also improve your physical and mental fitness. Moreover, it is safer to ride a bike on hilly roads in Sapa during the rainy reason.  Either joining a biking tour or renting a bike, you are about to embark upon an unforgettable sight-seeing, a culture-exploring journey in Sapa.

  • Join a biking tour

You can easily find information about biking tours from travel agencies or on the Internet. There is a wide range of tour packages varied based on types of bike, the number of guests, tour itinerary and tour services combined. For example, on one day tour, following the lead of local guide, you will start your biking tour from the town center to villages of Vietnamese ethnic tribes in the morning. During your ride, you will be able to see the stunning valley view along the way. During a short break, you can try some local food to recharge your energy before continuing your ride to other places.

  • Rent a bike

You can easily rent a bike at some hotels or from a private bike rental shops in Sapa. To ride on the hilly roads around Sapa, you should rent a good quality mountain bike with a soft seat. The rental rate varies from 3 USD to 10 USD, depending on bike sizes and duration.

A few things to note down if you choose to ride a bike around Sapa

  • It is advisable to wear a helmet when you are riding a bike
  • You should be in a good shape to be able to finish your ride, especially on rainy season; some roads around Sapa can be unfriendly to bicyclists.
  1. Car

Less energy-consuming way to go around Sapa is getting on a private car. Some attractions such as Cat Cat or Ta Phin Village are accessible by cars since the roads to these attractions are usually in good conditions. If you go in a group, hiring a car can be both fun and affordable. You can either rent a car at your hotel (normally, all hotels in Sapa provide information about car rental; some even offer car rental themselves) or from travel agencies. The price is ranging from 20 USD to 50 USD per day, inclusive of driver salary and fuel cost, based on car types and tour itinerary.

 

Mar 28

Sapa- A Must-Visit Place In Vietnam

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW

If you are considering traveling to Vietnam and still searching some places that are picturesque, yet affordable to go, then Sapa is the best deal on the table.

Sapa, a small mountainous village located in Lao Cai Province, 380 km far from Hanoi, is the darling of both domestic and international tourists thanks to its magnificent natural surroundings and multi-colored cultural diversity.  Since its rebirth as a tourist attraction, Sapa is never off the top list of the must-visit place in Vietnam travel guide book. A typical trip to Sapa often lasts from 3 to 4 days, including commuting time. You can go to Sapa from Hanoi either by yourself or by tours which are mostly affordable. From Hanoi, you can get to Sapa via road or rail. Overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, whose tickets and schedules are easily found on the Internet or travel agencies, used to be the safest transportation since the roads to Lao Cai were not in a good condition.HighWay-HN-LC-Zing.vn

Moreover, in order to get to Sapa from Lao Cai train station, you will have to catch a shuttle bus or a taxi. On September 2014, the brand new highway connecting Hanoi and Lao Cai finally opened, reducing traveling time to 4 hours by buses or cars.

Sapa was found and settled as a hill station by the French in 1922. From 1924 to 1940, there were about 100 villas built in Sapa. Today, the remnants of these villas still can be found in Sapa. In the late 1930s, Sapa reached its peak of development, becoming the prominent summer holiday destination of thousands of European expatriates in Vietnam. In 1952,

Cau-May-Sapa 1960sthe French army started bombing Sapa, destroying the entire town.  It was not until the 1960s that Sapa was reconstructed. After many vicissitudes, Sapa emerged as tourism highlight of northwest Vietnam as it started opening for international tourists to visit in 1993. Since then, Sapa has developed at a phenomenal rate and become one of the most attractive tourist sites in Vietnam.

 Lying at the altitude of 1600m above the sea and surrounded by the Hoang Lien Son mountain ranges, Sapa is granted a fairly cool climate year-round, with the temperature ranging from 15 to 18 Celsius degree. In the summer, from June to August, it is strikingly hot and rainy. Thus, it is not a favorable time for trekking or sightseeing. The best time to visit Sapa is either from March to May or from September to October, during which the weather is relatively dry and cool. From March to May, the town is engulfed in blooming flowers, luxuriant foliage, sunshine and fresh air, bestowing a winning combo upon tourists, especially trekkers. April is the best time to enjoy the picture-postcard scenery of blooming peach blossoms which can be spotted everywhere in Sapa. In addition, the harvest season of the rice paddies, from September to October, turns the entire town into a heavenly yellow color, creating a photogenic picture that can take your breath away. In the winter, Sapa is foggy and cold all the time.As the temperature sometimes drops below zero Celsius degree, the town can be covered in snow, which is a rare scene in a tropical country as Vietnam. Hence, despite the unfavorable weather condition, from December to February, the town is packed with a lot of Vietnamese tourists who come to see snowfall for the first time in their life.rice-terraces-Centremedicmatterhorn

What makes Sapa distinguish from other tourist attractions in Vietnam is that it is rich in not only natural habitats but also culture. Nowadays, Sapa is a district of 36,000 residents mostly from ethnic minority groups. The Kinh –Vietnamese ethnic majority group occupies 15 % of the total population while H’mong group accounts for 52% population, followed by Dao, Tay , Giay, Xa Pho and other smaller groups. H’mong -the biggest ethnic minority group currently residing in Sapa is called Black H’mong since their clothes are mainly in black and also is often called “H’mong Sapa” to distinguish the group from other H’mong groups in Vietnam. Years ago, they used to lead a nomadic life, cutting and burning trees to grow crops. Especially, the cultivation of opium was ubiquitous among the black H’mong until it was banned by the Vietnamese government in 1993.

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Thanks to the support and propagandas from the government, they no longer destroy forests and plant opium for a living. At the same time, the booming tourism in Sapa has given them opportunities to do various kinds of business such as providing homestay service, selling souvenirs or street-food or being a private tour guide. Beside H’mong people, you can easily come across local people from the other groups, who dress up in colorful clothes and sell souvenirs to foreign tourists in their broken English. Interestingly, although they may not speak Vietnamese -the official language in Vietnam fluently, they certainly can communicate in English without difficulty. It is explained that most people from the ethnic minorities in Sapa do not pursue any official and proper education provided by the government. They have their own languages and learn to speak English from foreign tourists through selling activities.

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Recent years have witnessed a boom in Sapa’s hospitality industry as the number of hotels, hostels and entertainment services has mushroomed. If you travel on your own, you can easily find information and book a room via websites before your trip starts.

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However, be consciously rigorous in checking information about the place you are going to stay for a couple of days because the service quality is not the same for every hotel or hostel in Sapa. If you go on a tour, then check with your travel agency to make sure that you are provided a nice accommodation that is worth your money. Furthermore, if you want to take a glimpse into the locals ‘lives, homestay is a perfect choice as you will have a chance to not only try some exotic local cuisines, but also learn more about the locals’ customs and lifestyles.

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It is not exaggerating to say that Sapa is a green masterpiece that Mother Earth created and then granted to Vietnam as it is surrounded by beautiful terraced rice fields and vast mountain ranges. It does not take you three seconds to be impressed by the incredibly specular sights there. The most famous attraction is Mountain Fansipan, which is 9 kilometers far from the town center. Mountain Fansipan, at 3143 meters above sea level, is the highest mountain in Vietnam as well as Indochina. It is also called ‘’the roof of Indochina”.  From 2016 on, the cable car tours are available to take tourists to the peak in 20 minutes whereas a trekking tour will take at least 3 days. However, trekking still has its charms among young people. While climbing alone to the summit of Mountain Fansipan is a fairly attainable challenge for professional trekkers, it is not always the case for others. Trekking tours to Fansipan are highly recommended for inexperienced trekkers since even though technical skills are not required to climb to the peak, but endurance and fitness are absolute musts, especially in the summer when trekkers can be drained of energy and motivation by the searing heat of the sun.  Sapa trekking tours are varying in prices and customized to the needs of trekkers. For example, you can choose either group or private tours, either climbing Fansipan or trekking through other attractions such as Cat Cat village, Silver Waterfall (Thac Bac) or Ham Rong Mountain to name a few. Be prepared for being dazzled during your trip by the pristine and scenic landscapes whose beauty is indescribable. From the town center, you can walk to see Ham Rong Mountain which abounds with blooming seasonal flowers and is a home of a variety of exotic vegetation. A short trekking to Cat Cat Village, only 2 kilometers far from the town center, is a good exercise to keep fit. Additionally, Cat Cat Village -the village of the black H’mong is an ideal place for you to truly immerse yourself in the vibrant daily activities of local ethnic people. Silver Waterfall, another must-see attraction in Sapa, is a heavenly garden that once you set foot in, you will be mesmerized by the incredibly unspoiled nature around you. You can get to Silver Waterfall, around 10 kilometers from the town center, either by private car or motorbike which you can easily rent out in the town center.

To have a well-prepared Sapa travel plan, there are a few things you should note down.

  • The mountain curvy road from Lao Cai to Sapa combining with the heedlessness of the bus drivers could make you feel dizzy and want to vomit if you have a weak stomach. So, bring with you some medicine or you are likely to spend a day lying in your hotel bed.
  • Sapa is a heaven of bizarre foods. Unless your stomach is strong, you should think carefully before trying tasting these foods.
  • Local people can be very aggressive when they try to sell souvenirs and other goods to you.

Lao Cai Train Station
Mar 28

How To Get To Sapa

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW

Sapa, the majestic mountainous village in Lao Cai Province, 380 km far from Hanoi-the capital of Vietnam, is one of the most popular attractions in the S-shaped country. If you go from Ho Chi Minh City, the quickest way that you catch a flight to Hanoi and then go to Sapa afterwards. Otherwise, traveling by train is another option on the table if you want to see the beautiful and heart-throbbing scenery on the way from Ho Chi Minh City without feeling bothered by long hour commuting. To get to Sapa from Hanoi, there are several transportation options for you to consider.

  1. By train

Train is considered the most popular transportation chosen among tourists. Even though it has just lost the advantages of traveling time and ticket price to bus, train still has its own charms. Traveling by train usually takes from 8 to 9 hours to go to Lao Cai from Hanoi. Overnight train is faster and more comfortable than day train as the day train makes a few more stops on the way to Sapa. The overnight train departs from Hanoi Train Station at night and arrives in Lao Cai Train Station in the morning. There is no rail to Sapa; therefore, you need to catch a bus, a taxi or motorbike-taxi (xe om).

You can find information about ticket price and train schedule on the Internet via some websites that are available in English such as Vietnam-railway.com. It is advisable to book ticket online via travel agency and request to have the ticket mailed to your hotel in Hanoi. Otherwise, you may end up being in a long queue and struggling to communicate in English with receptionist if you choose to buy ticket at the train station.

While searching information, you may come across some names such as Sapaly Express, King Express, Livitran Express and so forth, which are different private train service providers operating on the same train route between Hanoi and Sapa. The private tourist trains offer a wide range of service which is categorized into four options: 2-berth cabin, 4-berth cabin, 6-berth cabin and soft-seat cabin. Based on the service offered, the ticket prices vary from 20 USD per person to 45 USD per person. The most common chosen option is the 4-berth cabin, which is at an affordable price range and also equipped with clean beds and convenient amenities.

The following table provides you with the suggested train schedule from Hanoi to Lao Cai and the ticket fare:

http://i0.wp.com/sapavietnamtravels.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/sapa1.png

Source: vietnamonline.com

There are a few things that you should do when traveling by train

  • You should be at the train station at least 15 minutes early. To find the exact train you should get on is not a no-brainer job.
  • Never lose sight of keeping an eye on your own stuff even if you are in a luxury cabin. Many passengers reported having their stuff stolen while they slept or stopped being vigilant for a few minutes. At the end of the day, as the proverb says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

2. By bus

Few years ago, bus was not a preferable transportation among tourists since it usually took 10 to 11 hours to get to Sapa from Hanoi. Moreover, the old, bumpy and poorly-conditioned road to Sapa and the recklessness of the bus driver could cause nerve-wracking experience for passengers. Consequently, traveling by bus was not preferable even though a bus ticket was much cheaper than a train ticket.  Since the brand-new and modern highway connecting Hanoi and Sapa opened on September 2014, traveling time by bus has been reduced to 6 hours. Furthermore, while traveling by train, you have to catch a shuttle bus or a taxi to go from Lao Cai Train Station to Sapa, you will go directly from Hanoi to Sapa by one bus. As a result, traveling by bus is now faster, less tiring, safer and more comfortable. At the same time, when traveling by buses, you will have a chance to enjoy picturesque and photogenic view on the way. Thanks to the pricing advantage and flexible schedule, bus is expected to take over train to be the most chosen transportation soon.

http://i2.wp.com/sapavietnamtravels.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Lao-Cai-Train-Station-1.jpg?resize=600%2C397

Lao Cai Train Station

In addition, you can find information about ticket price, bus schedule and bus departing location on the Internet. There are a few websites providing information about bus ticket available in English, but they are certainly not as comprehensive as the ones in Vietnamese. To avoid any online scams, you can either directly buy at the bus station (My Dinh or Luong Yen Bus Station) or ask your Vietnamese friends to verify the information on the Internet for you.

The ticket prices vary from 200.000 VND (around 9 USD) to 550.000 VND (around 25 USD), depending on the types of bus and the service offered. The ticket prices can go up from 20% to 30% on Vietnamese public holidays.

The following table provides you some suggestions about the common buses from Hanoi to Sapa, including types of bus, one-way ticket price and bus schedules.

http://i0.wp.com/sapavietnamtravels.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/sapa2.png

Exchange rate used: 1 USD= 22.000 VND

Source: Sinhcafetour.com

3. By private car 

If you want to have more leeway and flexibility in your travel itinerary, then you can rent a private car. On the way from Hanoi, you can request to make a stop at some beautiful attractions such as Bac Ha, Mai Chau to name a few. The private car is certainly more expensive than train and bus, but if you are traveling in a group, it is quite affordable.

Below are some suggested private car options that are available. The price includes driver’s salary, gasoline and other expenses.

http://i2.wp.com/sapavietnamtravels.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/sapa3.png

Exchange rate used:  1 USD= 22.000 VND

Source: thuexedisapa.com

4. By motorbike 

Traffic in Vietnam is notorious for its chaos. For foreigners, riding motorbike can be very dangerous in the vicinity of a city, let alone on the road from Hanoi to Sapa. If you are experienced motorcyclist and also get used to the traffic in Vietnam, then riding motorbike to Sapa would be a fairly attainable challenge. For safety issue, it is not recommended to go to Sapa from Hanoi by motorbike on your own. Instead, you should go on a motorbike tour with local tour guide, which usually takes 3 days to get to Sapa from Hanoi. Joining a motorbike tour, you will have a chance to stop by a few amazingly wonderful places along the way, such as Mai Chau, Moc Chau and Than Uyen. The tour price varies according to the number of guests; it is much cheaper when you travel in group.

5. By bike 

For any professional cyclists, it is undoubtedly a real challenge to ride a bike from Lao Cai to Sapa, let alone from Hanoi to Sapa. Moreover, without local guidance, you may encounter a lot of difficulties that are unforeseeable. There are bike tours from Hanoi to Sapa, provided by some tour operators such as Sapa Cycling Tours and Vietnam Bike tours. Cycling to Sapa is not a light work that you can handle without preparation. If you are determined to ride a bike to Sapa from Hanoi, make sure to test your physical health and endurance in other shorter routes first.

6. By helicopter 

In 2015, KFL Group launched its helicopter service, providing various flight packages for high-income domestic and international tourists.  The Airbus helicopter is controlled by one or two experienced pilots and is able to carry from 5 to 6 adults. A one-hour flight costs 2600 USD and a two-way Hanoi-Sapa trip costs 9240 USD for 3.5 hours. By far, it is the quickest and most expensive way to travel between Hanoi and Sapa.

7. Running/Walking 

Well, if you are second Forrest Gump, then go for it. “Run, Forrest, Run!” The road from Hanoi to Sapa is probably approximately nine times a marathon race. Let me put it this way.  Assuming that your average running speed is 10 kilometers per hour, you will get to Sapa from Hanoi in 38 hours or one and a half day without sleeping, eating or even going to toilet. In reality, even if you ignore all the unimaginable difficulties caused by traffic and weather, and more importantly, you are in extremely good shape, it will probably take you several days to make it to Sapa. Nevertheless, you will create a lot of unforgettable experiences that nobody can, seeing the vastness and beauty of natural surroundings and meeting new people along the way. Just make sure you are both mentally and physically ready for “the race of your life”.