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Category Archives: Getting to Sapa

Get in/out Sapa

Tips to travel Sapa

terraced fields_sapa

terraced fields_sapa

How to get there

The best way is taking overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa then connect with a road trip for 1 hour.
There are many people who try to ask you to buy bus tickets either outside or inside Lao Cai train station, you can accept their invitation, however, you should only paid when the bus really departs.

For a comfortable seat, it should be better to book the shuttle bus, you may not be pushing to seat with 15 people for a mini bus of 16 seater.

Best time to Travel

Sapa is at its green and best time on July, August, September, October and November.
Many people suppose this is rainy time but we believe it is a beautiful time for many regions:
– Rice & corn planation starts in June and finish in October. This is the wonderful period to admire the green nature and some special rite which deprived from rice cultivation.
– The rain often comes in summer but not for long and the view is simple what you expect through the postcards, video and photos
– There are less tourists coming to Sapa this time, more promotion for hotels especially 3*, 4* hotels

From December to April, the weather turns to be pretty cold but no rain. If you wish to enjoy an adventure without being interupted by weather, this is the good choice. The landscapes remains at their magnificience and awesomeness.

Shopping

This is one of the most sensitive thing while traveling in Sapa. Many local woman especially Black Hmong and Red Dzao tribe will attract you with some short conversations and persuading you to buy something for them. There maybe 1 person of 1 small group will come to you with a nice talk, however, they may ask you to buy at least 1 piece of each person.

Tippings

Most of travelers come to Sapa will do trekking or some types of outdoors, the tour guide will consume more energy in Sapa than other part of Vietnam. The tip is not compulsory for many company, specially Sapa Travel Expert, however if the tour guide`s performance is perfect, we encourage you to tip with 5usd/ day/ person.

Unique experience in Sapa

Hill tribe markets are one of the most unique experience in Sapa. The highlight of this cultural visit originated from the meeting with local tribes from different areas with different customs.
At Sapa Travel Expert, we are able to offer you visits to market that you may not meet any tourist and being totally off beaten track to enjoy the authenticity.

Off road trekking: for discernning travellers, normal trekking route with numerous of tourists may not be interesting and your experience is so common, we offer you off -road trek that we ensure your experience is different and enjoyable. For such type of tour, we guarantee 100% refund if you do not feel satisfied with the trip.

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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Getting to Sapa, Guide, Things to do

 

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Climb Mount Fansipan in Sapa

sapa fansipan

sapa fansipan

Fansipan is Vietnam’s tallest mountain and more than a few tackle its summit but at an altitude of 3,143 meters, climbing Mount Fansipan is no mean feat and should be organized through a tour agent.  Treks are usually overnight, or even over three days, with accommodation in tents or bamboo huts located at just over 2,200 metres. Although the peak is below the lie of winter snows, it will get cold.   Most groups require at least two passengers and charge $70+ per person for a two-day trek. One-day treks are available if you have the fitness for it.

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Getting to Sapa

 

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Home Stay in Sapa

An authentic homestay with a Giay family at Ta Van village is an unparalleled way to learn about hill tribe culture, and give us a close-up experience of the life style local minorities.

Ta Van is located in the northern province of Lao Cai, about 5

sapa sellers

sapa sellers

kilometers from Sapa town.  Your accommodation is in an open air-house, hill tribe style, in a room with thin mattress, pillows, mosquito net, and a shared toilet. You will share the house with a local family with their children

In the morning, we will head towards Muong Hoa valley and start trekking by descending into the valley, which are the largest rice paddy terraces in the Sapa area. If we visit the valley sometime in between May and October, we will be able to observe and learn how the locals plant and harvest. On route, we will meet Black Hmong, Giay and Red Dao minorities as well as have the opportunity to discover their different cultures.

We will also have the opportunity to engage in some activities with the local host family or experience optional activities such as:

+ Participate in preparing meals and enjoy an authentic home-cooked dinner with the local family

+ Help in fabric weaving and rice terrace planting and harvesting (if we travel around May-Oct)

+ Join in volunteering activities teaching tribal children in the village

+ Trek or cycle in the villages

+ Talk to family members to learn about their life and culture

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Getting to Sapa

 

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Cable car from Sapa to Fansipan

A cable car from Sa Pa town in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai to Fansipan Mountain will be developed in an effort to lure more visitors to the cloudy town. The provincial People’s Committee Chairman has decided to set up a working

cable car

cable car

group that will coordinate with investors in implementing this project. Director of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment Dang Thanh Phong, who is also group leader, said that once operational in 2014, the cable car route will not only create more tourism products for Sa Pa but also lure more tourists to the town, Hoang Lien National Park and Fansipan peak.  At present, only several hundreds of tourists register to climb to Fansipan peak per month. The project is divided into two phases, with the first being commenced later this year, focusing on developing the cable car system and culture-tourism complex. The second phase will build hotels and recreational centers.  The project is invested by the Fansipan Sa Pa cable tourism company, which has ever built a cable car to Ba Na Hill in Da Nang Vietnam. However, opinions divided on planned cable car up Mount Fansipan,

 

Reported by a customer named Lee Han Sung, Korean:

I do not think the construction of a cable car to the top of Mount Fansipan is a good idea. As a regular backpacker, I think the point of having high mountains is toconquer them. Of course I would still climb a mountain even if there were a cable car to the top, but I’m not comfortable with the fact that the area at the top ofFansipan will be commercialized.

Here is another interview with Ms. Dang My Dung, Vietnamese, in Ha Noi

I really cannot agree with the plan. As a matter of fact, climbing Fansipan is not an easy walk. It is a challenge that requires determination, good health and proper preparation (which may involve adequate physical exercise before the journey).

I personally climbed the mountain last week. It was a very long and hard journey. It took my friends and me three full days to reach the top. What we got out of the experience was not just the scenery, but more importantly the feeling that we had achieved something worthwhile.

So, the cable car is usually for Asian travel markets and Vietnamese local markets, not for the backpackers or adventurers from Europe, Australia or American.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Getting to Sapa

 

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DIY Sapa trips

From Lao Cai Train Station, visitor can easily catch a shared car / van to Sapa for VND 60,000 per person (USD1 = VND21,010 as of Nov 2013). The trip takes about 45 minutes. Pay only when you almost reach Sapa. A lot of vans can be seen right after the train reaches Lao Cai. People may follow you and offer “Sapa: 6 Dollars” or “Sapa: 5 Dollars”. The van may stop near Sapa Church . You can find clean hotels at $6 or less around here with electric heater and hot shower. The hot water is limit (3 liters) and it takes time to boil before you can bath. Make sure you complete your bath before waiting for the second boil.

sapa church

sapa church

Walking down the Sapa Market, about 5 minutes from the Church, you can find more hotel options from $10-30. It’s dark at night when the market closes, but when you go down the big steps and turn, you will see all the actions.

Foods, drinks and convenient stores can be found near the Church or this market area. Visitor can pick a local guide with motorcycle who stands near some visiting places. A return trip to Cat Cat Village costs VND 100,000 per person. A return trip to Ban Hocosts VND200,000 per person.

The hotel you stay will call the van back to Lao Cai for you (VND60,000 per person) and it will stop in front of your hotel if you stay in Xuan Vien Street near the Church (in this area you don’t see excellent hotels).

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Getting to Sapa, Guide

 

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Rent scooters in Sapa

The thing to do is rent a scooter and go on your own. There are more than enough places offering you bike rentals in Sapa town proper. If you are good with motorbikes, you can do 30km each hour with good breaks to enjoy the view and stop at local shops and food places; top speed is 50kmph average going up and down the hills. You can do a bit better if you are alone but do this only if you are used to driving on winding hills and bumpy roads.

Pay 10 dollars for a full day rental… you can get it for 6-8 as well. You don’t need a driver’s license here… passport is good and no one checks as far as you pay the entrance fees. If you are not confident of driving here (there are no rules apart from being the hills), fill up petrol from the gas stations as and when you require. But, if you can drive, you will get a better deal with a full tank… they will fill it up for the equivalent for 3 liters since they expect travelers to drive more than that ;-D Expect 30km or so per litre so work it out for yourself.

scooter in sapa vietnam

scooter in sapa vietnam

The town is a nice start if you need a bit of time to get used to your bike. Enjoy roaming around places that are not already crowded with the usual group of backpackers and Hmong women. If you fancy it, you can make it to the entry point of Cat Cat Village. Bikes aren’t allowed in.

Head off to Tran Tom pass which has amazing views of the mountains and beyond. The roads are even better to ride around after the pass as it gets progressively more into the hills and the forests. Come back to Sapa and make it to rice paddy terraces and then down to the valley floor of Ta Phin which inverts the views you just had… from the bottom instead of the top.

Better yet, instead of hopping on to a tour, take your motorbike to one of those remote Hmong marketsin Bac Ha or Coc Ly and spend a few days out there.

NOTE: Be respectful of the tribes. If you are part of a tour, they will take you to a lot of huts. Unlike the local guides, they don’t get a penny from your tours. They are just polite and don’t mind if you enter their premises but they do lead difficult lives. If you do enter their homes for travel purposes and showing pictures back home, do give them a bit in return.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Getting to Sapa, Guide

 

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A taste of traditional village life

After a rude awakening, Anna settles in to daily rituals and spirited encounters with the people ofHa Giang

It was 3.30am when the cockerel first crowed, an alarm all the more bone-jangling because it was right underneath the hut on stilts in which we were sleeping. Every 10 minutes or so that darn cockadoodle-do split the silence, until around the time when one actually might want to be woken up, at which point it went quiet.

Vietnamese village life is not without its challenges for the unsuspecting tourist. (Home-brewed rice wine the colour of pond water, anyone? More on that later.) But they are nothing alongside its many delights. We were in rural Ha Giang, a mountainous northern region of Vietnam, close to the border with China. Ha Giang is a six-hour drive from Hanoi, and a world away, a place where currently very few tourists visit.

Driving ever upwards into the mountains, we passed through a narrow gorge between two giant cliffs, the aptly named Heaven’s Gate. Beyond was a landscape of toothsome crags and wild forest and jungle, offset with the gentle, shimmering emerald of paddy fields. The mountains of Vietnam’s north, along with those of its interior, are where the majority of the country’s 53 minority groups live (the 13.8 per cent of the population who are not ethnic Viet), many of them upholding a way of life that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

rice field ha giang

rice field ha giang

Our first night in the region was spent at a pretty French-owned guesthouse in the village of Panhou, its rice paddy surrounds reinvented as an exotically planted water garden. No middle-of-the-night cockerel crows here; just some fairly low-key frogs. In the morning we went to the nearby market in the district of Thong Nguen, where we saw women from two different tribes meeting to shop and, more importantly, to gossip

The Red Dao women wore a navy hemp outfit with a red trim. Their heads were haloed with a big coil of red trim, and on their chests was a large pewter necklace that looked more like the breastplate on a suit of armor. The Black Dao wore a black hemp outfit trimmed in white, and on their head was a black kerchief decorated with white cords.

Whichever their tribe, the men wore modern clothes. Our guide Quang told us that women, especially unmarried ones, had less sartorial freedom because their reputation as a “good girl” would be at risk if they chose to abandon the traditional dress. The youngest had abandoned one practice however – the chewing of betel leaves. The older women were all betel chewers, their blackened teeth considered by them and their peers to be beautiful.

Such is the comparative rarity of tourists in Ha Giangthat we were as much an object of fascination to them as they were to us, a fact that lessened that uncomfortable feeling of voyeurism that you can sometimes suffer when you travel off the beaten track.

There was very little food to be bought – dried fish and pork was pretty much all that was left by the time we got there. Instead there were numerous stalls selling the yarns and the braiding that decorated the Dao costumes. When we walked out of the market up into the surrounding hillsides we quickly saw how self-sufficient the Dao were; why there was very little they needed to buy.

Red Dzao mioority

Red Dzao mioority

Every house was the Good Life personified: aside from the rice paddies themselves there were immaculate vegetable and herb gardens (the Vietnamese diet includes copious herbs and salad leaves at every meal, often added to a meat-based noodle broth called pho or bun). Most of the dwellings were traditional wooden affairs, the Red Dao houses built on the ground, the Black Dao houses on stilts. Outside several homes, a woman was winnowing rice using a large flat-bottomed basket, tossing the rice up high into the air to separate it from the dry husks.

Unfortunately, we had lunch at the home of someone who was going up in the world, which meant we ate our delicious picnic not in a picturesque traditional house but in a breeze-block carbuncle, breeze blocks being such a status symbol as to be like the Rolex watch of the Dao world.

We sat with the son of the family and a son-in-law, the former a city worker back to visit for the weekend, the latter still a country boy. They were both in their late twenties, yet the difference between the two was remarkable, the former confident and chatty, asking us lots of questions and telling us about himself with the help of Quang, and the latter not uttering a word, barely able to bring himself even to look at us. This was a typical distinction between city and country folk, Quang told us.

The next day we drove a couple of hours to the Phong Thien commune, home to the Black and White Tay and, as we were later to find out, that excruciating cockerel. The Tay villagers no longer wear their traditional costumes – they are nearer to the city, and its influences – yet it is still an ancient-seeming place. It was raining on our first morning and we saw one woman using a large leaf as an impromptu umbrella. In the paddy fields the women – and, yes, it is the women who work there – wore not only their traditional woven conical hats but a kind of backplate, also made of woven bamboo, to protect their body from the rain as they bent over.

Even aside from the rain, this was a watery place, with numerous little rills and jerry-built aqueducts made of rubber piping and bamboo, all designed to bring water down into the villages from many miles up in the mountains. We saw one local woman with the ubiquitous twin baskets, one on each end of a carrying pole, transporting her ducklings between home and paddy field, where she took them daily to gobble up insects and snails.

Our walk around the local villages was full of such unforgettable sights. Lunch was similarly memorable. Our hostess was a 75-year-old tribeswoman, little more than 5ft tall, a mother of 10 and a brewer of rice wine. Hers was a specially doctored variety of the local spirit, the noxious-looking bottle steeped with ginseng and assorted other anonymous roots and leaves, all of them believed by the tribes people to give their elderly extra pep.

Well pep she certainly had, in abundance. We had to down a heady shot as a sign that we were grateful to enjoy her hospitality. As I reeled, my boyfriend jokingly held up five fingers, implying he was game to drink five measures. She quickly held up all 10 fingers. “Ten!” she exclaimed in the local dialect excitedly.

ethnic play games in Vietnam

ethnic play games in Vietnam

“Ten! Ten!” Quang told us that the old women can often drink their visitors under the table, hardened as they are by their traditional role as party starters at village gatherings. Several shots later, Quang had to lie down, and his excellent commentary went quiet for a while.

Back at the house that night we were given a local footbath, stewing our feet in a herbal brew that looked remarkably similar to what we had been drinking that lunchtime. Then there was a delicious supper of rice-paper spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, carp with tomato and garlic, deep-fried tofu and perfectly nutty white rice.

Lying down on our floor mattresses, in a corner cordoned off from the rest of the open-plan floor space by sheets hung on two lines, we were buzzing with delight at all that we had seen. Our stay in the mountains had been worth those 3.30am wake-up calls, we told each other. It was 10pm. Five and a half hours later… well, our thoughts were a little different. But as we drove back to Hanoi the next day, we knew we would never forget our Vietnamese mountain interlude.

 

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Getting to Sapa, Guide

 

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