Even though Sapa is just a small hilly town in northwest Vietnam, it is now filled with restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops. Shopping in Sapa can create a lot of surprises and fun for any travelers and tourists. Sapa is a heaven of uniquely made products, and it does no harm to buy some of them only if you ask for the price first. Most of the traditional products are sold in open markets and on the streets by ethnic minority women and children. At first, they appear to be friendly but can quickly turn aggressive the moment they catch you trying to go without buying their products. Hence, if you are not good at confronting these problems, find some local shops to enjoy your shopping day. The following list consists of popular products that are reasonably priced and in good quality as well.
Browsing around the town, you can easily spot souvenir shops that sell hill tribe handmade products such as colorful embroidered bags, pillows, backpacks and patterned clothes. These products are created by the skillful and adept hands of ethnic minority women. Ethnic minority women in Sapa started learning to make these products at a very young age. They put a lot of efforts and take pride in their work; thus, the original handmade products are usually more expensive. Nowadays, there are many low-quality brocade products that are massed produced in China and sold at cheaper price in Sapa. Don’t let some fake brocade products with a nonsensical cheap price you find on some souvenir shops in Sapa market or in the street cloud your judgment on the original ones. Indigo Cat, a Souvenir Shop situated in the town center, is a trustworthy address for you if you want to purchase some brocade products. You can find a lot of high quality, well designed handmade products including clothes, bags, blankets, pillows and silver jewelry. The quality of these products there is really compatible with the price offered. Moreover, if you have time to go to Bac Ha market, you can find beautiful handcrafted silver jewelry, such as bracelets, necklaces, rings and so on.
Sapa is a giant garden of fresh and tasty fruits; some of them only grow in Sapa, such as peach, red plum, pear, rose apple to name a few. Since these fruits grow organically, their sizes are smaller than those of the fruits planted massively in the lowland of Vietnam. Cherry plum is my favorite fruit. I am naturally fond of sour fruits so I usually pick out these fruits to eat first. Thus, when I saw red plum, I tried it without hesitation. And the amazing flavor hit me so hard that I ate those red plums non-stop and just stopped until I got signals from my stomach. The harvest season usually starts in June and ends in mid-July. A kilo of red plum costs around 4 USD, which is not expensive for an organic fruit. I bought 3 kilos of red plum and ate a half of those red plums on the way back to Hanoi. Peach is another fruit that my money is willing to go for. Peach trees are grown by the Black H’mong people on the mountain side. Peach fruit has slightly sour, yet addictive taste. Eating it can soothe your stress a big deal and also makes you want to grow a peach tree in your backyard. Try one and you will admit that I am not exaggerating. In this case, remember to buy in bulk and put these godly fruits in a papered box to keep them fresh. You can find these fruits in Sapa market in the town center, but the best ones are sold in Bac Ha Market, which is 110 km from Sapa.
I became veggie grinding machine during the time I was in Sapa. I originally have a loving committed relationship with all kinds of vegetables (even with Brussels sprout). Therefore, I aimed to taste all veggies that I found in Sapa. And I fell in love “rau cải mèo” and “ngồng”. When sautéed with garlic and beef, these vegetables turn into super delicious dishes with an unforgettable aroma. These veggies themselves have a unique flavor that can be addictive to anyone. “Rau cải mèo” is grown in the terraced fields in Cat Cat Village and Ta Van Village. The veggie is available for sale in traditional markets in Sapa; hence, you can buy a bunch of “rau cải mèo” and request some restaurants to cook for you. A kilo of “ngồng” or “rau cải mèo” is around 1.5 or 2 USD.
Medicine herbs are widely sold in Eastern pharmacy stores and traditional markets in Sapa. There are numerous of herbs that are good for your health such as lotus seed, Tam That, Thach Thao, and so on. Some herbs only grow in the mountain; some are extremely rare and precious. You can also buy wild honey in Sapa, which contains no sugar at all. I bought 3 liters of honey for my parents and they are still so happy with my present.
Salmon has recently been raised successfully in Sapa thanks to Sapa’s subtropical highland weather. From salmon, local people create many delicious dishes such as salmon hot pot, grilled salmon. Ground and dried salmon is another Sapa’s signature food. Salmon is ground into tiny pieces, dried out completely and put into a small plastic container. You can mix ground and dried salmon with eggs to make a tasty salmon omelet or you can scatter some to your salad or pizza. I tried with my handmade pizza and it worked beautifully. Handmade pizza cooked with ground and dried salmon has become my signature dish since then and my friends ask for this dish every single time they come over my place. Furthermore, it is very convenient for you to buy several containers and give out to your friends and family as gifts.