Sapa sunny day in december

Discover Sapa without a guide: places to visit

Are you preparing your trip to Sapa? If you plan to travel to the North of Vietnam and want to save some money by traveling on your own, it is possible to do! In this guide we will tell you which are the best places to visit, to propose routes and give you travel advices… so you can travel Sapa without the need of any tourist guide.

 

  1. Time to spend in Sapa
  2. How to go to Sapa
  3. Accommodation in Sapa
  4. What to see in Sapa
    1. Sapa Villages
    2. Waterfalls in Sapa
    3. Mountains in Sapa
  5. How to move around Sapa?
    1. Trekkings in Sapa
    2. Sapa with motorbike

 

Time to spend in Sapa

To organize your trip, first of all, you must take into account how many days you are going to spend in Sapa. In the north of Vietnam, the distances between points are quite large, so it is one of the most important aspects to take in mind when you are planning your trip. The advisable thing to live a good experience is to spend, at least, two days and one night in Sapa. Obviously, this depends on the travel plan that each person carries and the available days.

Sapa one day trips:

For this option the best choice it’s to take the night bus from Hanoi, we are talking about Hanoi because it’s the principal city to depart to Sapa. Choosing the bus instead of the train you will earn a couple of hours. since the train goes to Lao Cai, and from this city you will have to take a bus or taxi that will take you one more hour of travel. A good option to take advantage of the time, can be to combine bus and train: to arrive at Sapa in bus, to rent a motorcycle and to visit all the places of interest of Sapa and near and, once you visit every place, take the road to Lao Cai to catch a train night.

On the other hand, if you prefer to enjoy a good motorbike route around the mountain, the best option is to rent a motorcycle and head for Fansipan. You will not reach the top, but you will spend a great day enjoying the views as you drive towards the border with China. If you try this option, you should make a stop to visit the waterfall Thac Bac and then enjoy the views in Tram Ton Pass. Along the O Quy Ho road there are several places in which you can stop to eat and buy a bottle of gasoline to refuel, or even souvenirs. The duration of the journey depends of you, but remember that normally the rental motorcycles have to be returned before 18pm.

You also can head to the villages and make a route to discover the roads that people from the different ethnic groups that lives in these area face to get to Sapa. In a radius of 8km you will find Cat Cat, Y Lin Ho, Lao Chai and Ta Van. If you are one of the brave ones you can try to find a more alternative route to go, and return by the main road which is easier and will take you about 20 minutes. You can also make this route by doing a small trekking, and enjoy of the chill and peace of this area and discover more about the local people.

Another option is to travel from Hanoi to Lao Cai, and try to go see some of the markets that are celebrated further north. Another great option, to discover in first person the customs and traditions of the local people.

Sapa two days trip:

This is the option most recommended. Because it allows you to make a trekking route to get into one of the adjoining villages. During the route you will find people from different ethnic groups (Hmong or Red Dzao) who, in addition, trying to sell you their products will offer you to stay at your homestay. It is a good option to accompany you on the trekking route and show you places that you might not discover on your own and try for a day how it is lived and how you live in one of these villages.

For the second day you have the option of take a motorcycle route that we proposed previously, and return to Sapa or Lao Cai in search of your transport. Going to Fansipan is totally recommended, after a day of trekking you may not see yourself with strength, but you can crown the top of Indochina roof using the cable car. If there are any of the local markets you should also go to visit them, although for this option you should spend the night in Lao Cai, as it is closer to the main ones.

Sapa three or more days trip:

Without a doubt, you should take the opportunity to try to become a Hmong. You will spend several nights, so one should be in a local house for dinner with a local family (but be careful with the excesses of happy water). Do trekking with them, eat with them and experience the feeling of being one more of the village. It is one of the ways to enjoy this experience in a different way.

Another thing you should dare to dare is to crown the top of Fansipan by your own feet. For this option, if we recommend you hire a guide, especially if you have planned to do it in two days, because this way you will avoid losing yourself or spend the night alone in the mountains. But by paying a ticket you can try it for yourself if you feel capable of it.

Without a doubt, you should take advantage to go to one of the most well-known traditional markets. At Weekends you can go to Can Cau Saturday Market and Bac Ha Sunday Market. Both are near Bac Ha, so spending Saturday night in this town can be a great option. In addition, it is a less touristy town than Sapa.

Finally, after several days trekking and driving you will take the opportunity to have a massage in Sapa, since there are a lot of spas and not all have those views; or to give you a traditional herb bath in the village of Ta Phin.

Sapa montaña Ham Rong

 

How to go to Sapa

The best option to get to Sapa is to depart from Hanoi. You have other options such as from Ha Long or Cat Ba, from where also depart night buses. If you plan to go from Hanoi to Sapa you have the option of bus and train.

As for the trains, all are nocturnal and go to Lao Cai. You have different companies that operate this journey, starting between 21:00 and 22:00. The price is higher than the bus, but you can also enjoy more comfort. In the trains, you have seat in tourist class, but also of private compartments for 2 and 4 people, and even some offer soft beds. Everything depends on the budget you have allocated for this trip. Once in Lao Cai, you must take a bus or a private driver to get to Sapa. This trip will take you one hour, we recommend the bus option because the time is the same and you will save some money. If you choose to drive, be careful as this is one of the roads that has the highest number of accidents in Vietnam. With this we do not mean that it is dangerous, but you have to  extreme the caution because you are driving in a country that is not ours.

On the other hand you can go by bus. This is best option regarding the price and duration of the trip. You have night buses and throughout the day, here you can check the bus schedules to Sapa. The journey takes about 5 hours, have between 10 and 20 dollars, and many of the buses are composed of bunk beds, also known as sleeping bus, which is a good option to rest during the journey.

Sleeping Bus para ir a Sapa

 

Accommodation in Sapa

Depending on how long you are going to stay, you will need accommodation or not. In case you are going to stay you will not have any problem, because Sapa is one of the most touristic points of the North of Vietnam has a great variety of hotel offer so you can spend one or several nights. Best of all, it’s the great variety of sites: from the most luxurious hotels to spending nights at the home of local people. Without a doubt, the accommodation in a local house is the most recommended option so you can feel like a Hmong more.

As for the price range is very variable, you can find from very cheap options to prices like those of a hotel in the West. Everything depends on the budget you have assigned and the comforts that you want to add or you can ignore.

 

What to see in Sapa

Sapa is one of those magical places, in which you can enjoy just taking a walk around. Of those in which still the man has not been dedicated to modify in excess the surroundings. Leafy mountains, waterfalls that rise to the top, endless rice terraces, etc. A total disconnection from the city.

So you can travel on your own, and do not feel worried about missing the most important places, we have created this map including all the places by categories:

Sapa Villages

  • Cat Cat

The village of Cat Cat in the commune of San Sa Ho, is a beautiful destination on a trip to the mountainous area of ​​Tay Bac (northwest). This town is located just two kilometers from the center of Sa Pa and the road to get there is formed by zigzag roads covered with fog, with mountains on one side and green fields on terraces on the other. Being the closest is the most touristic village. To access you have to pay an entrance that costs 70,000 VND (around € 3).
  • Ta Van

Located about 8 kilometers from the city of Sapa, Ta Van (village of Ta Van Giay) belongs to the commune of Ta Van, and has approximately 150 homes. An essential visit if you want to enjoy the landscape as it is located in the heart of the Muong Hoa valley. Despite the different ethnic minority groups that live here, the Giay ethnic minority represents the majority of the population. It is curious to see the ethnic variety of this village, because you can also find black Hmong in the areas closest to the mountain. In fact, their humanistic noble values ​​in the characteristics and special culture of the people of Giay is the most impressive feature for tourists when they travel to Ta Van Village.

  • Lao Chai

The village of Lao Chai is located 6 km from the city center of Sapa, and is also the starting point of the Muong Hoa valley. It is inhabited mainly by black Hmong. From the main road, the great view of the town opens up to offer wonderful views, backed by high mountains and facing the river. Here you can enjoy the fresh air, see the fields of terraces, streams, visit and discover some of the Hmong families, three large villages with more than 100 families of the Hmong black ethnic group. As it is usually normal with people of these ethnic groups, you will experience a welcome feeling in any house due to the hospitality of the people. Visiting this village is an opportunity to interact, learn about its culture and its customs.

  • Y Lin Ho

Y Linh Ho is a small commune composed of a dozen small villages scattered in the harsh mountainous terrain with high, steep mountains. Located in the Muong Hoa valley, this village is home to the black Hmong.

  • Ta Phin

The village of Ta Phin is one of those places in Sapa that you should visit if you have the opportunity. Ta Phin is located in a beautiful and pristine valley, about 15 kilometers northeast of Sapa. This town is inhabited by the ethnic minority “Dao Do”. When visiting Ta Phin, something that will catch the attention of tourists is the Dao Do women’s dress, a product traditionally handmade by the locals. These people are quite friendly and hospitable, and when you walk through this village you can explore the customs, traditions and culture of the ethnic community. If you are lucky you will be able to witness wedding ceremonies and some traditional types of dances. In addition, this place is known for its herbal baths. What can be a good option to unwind and relax.

  • Ban Pho

The village of Ban Pho is the village inhabited by black and flowers Hmong. In addition, it is a beautiful landscape during the spring (February and March) when the plum blossom blooms everywhere. This village is the ancient destination of the Hmong people and, in this place, there are more than 500 families and more than 3000 people. During the visit to Ban Pho, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful views of Bac Ha Highland. In addition, you will be attracted to local ethnic specialties such as “thang co” and its famous corn wine.

  • Ban Ho

At the end of the paved road, about 25 km from the city of Sapa, you will find Ban Ho in a vast and flat valley, surrounded by mountains and hills. It is divided into three areas: Ta Trung Ho, Xeo Trung Ho and Hoang Lien, which is the place of the Hmong, Dao and Tay. The Muong Hoa River meanders around the village and provides fresh water for 2 rice and bean crops each year and makes the landscape of the valley more romantic. The Tay people possess a high technique of rice cultivation and live a sedentary lifestyle. In Ban Ho, you will have the opportunity to see waterfalls, swim in a pool of hot water or a stream of cold water, discover traditional fabrics, make brocads … and participate in community activities. You will be alive and living in the cozy and family atmosphere. Another important note is that the climate in Ban Ho is warmer than Sapa.

  • Sin Chai

The town of Sin Chai is located in the Ta Giang Phinh commune, what the locals consider a unique gift that God gave to the Hmong. This village is located at the bottom of Thau Stream, which is never out of the water and at the foot of the Ngu Chi Son mountain range. You can reach the town walking from Sapa and then passing through Lanh Waterfalls and Ngu Chi Son. The weather is usually cold and accompanied by wind and fog. Still, it presents a unique charm and beauty. Mount Ngu Chi Son (Mount of Five Fingers), magnificent rice terraces, the Mong Valley of a hundred years ago, its traditional and peaceful houses full of equipment made in Mong are the symbols of this town and make it one of the the most interesting places in Sapa. At present, the road to this place is one of the best. Anyway, if you come to Sapa, it will be better to try its natural and quiet trails, such as through forests or narrow trails to make the trek.

  • Thai Giang

The village of Thai Giang Pho is special because going up and down along the mountains (with a height of over 1,400m), you can see the landscape full of Bac Ha people and ethnic minorities appear and disappear in the mountains and Terraced fields around mountain in sunlight. It is a village inhabited by Flower Hmong.

Muong Hoa Valle

Waterfalls in Sapa

  • Tha Bac Waterfall

The waterfall is located right next to the 4D national road, one of the main roads to reach the province of Lai Chau (another convenient place to visit). You will have to spend about 30 minutes by motorcycle or bus to visit one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sapa in particular and waterfalls in Vietnam in general. Discovering this waterfall is one of the essential nature shows in Sapa.

Cascada de Plata en Sapa

  • Love Waterfall

The waterfall of love is located in the commune of San Sa Ho. It is one of the indispensable tourist sites of Sapa and the starting point to climb the travel itinerary conquering the Fansipan peak. Before setting foot here, tourists will have the opportunity to discover the beauty of the primitive forests surrounded by the old and mossy taciturn bamboo canopy. The immense bamboo forest is lit with red, yellow and white azalea flowers.

Cascada del amor en Sapa

 

Mountains in Sapa

  • Fansipan

With a height of 3,143 meters Mount Fansipan is known as the highest mountain in Vietnam and “the Roof of Indochina”. The conquest of the Fansipan peak is the dream of many professional climbers, as well as adventurous travelers when they come to Vietnam. It is located in the province of Lao Cai, about 9 km southwest of the city of Sapa. It belongs to the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, located in the northwest of Vietnam and lying on the border of two provinces: Lao Cai and Lai Chau. You can try to climb it by yourself (you’ll need two days) or use the cable car.

Las nubes desde la cima del Fansipan

  • Hoang Lien National Park

The Hoang Lien National Park, just outside the city of Sapa, is unique to experience nature up close. The park covers approximately 30 km2 of scenic mountain scenery, including the highest peak in Vietnam: the Fansipan (3.143m). The park contains temperate and sub-temperate forests that cover the Hoang Lien mountain range. The forest and the surrounding vegetation provide habitats for a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Many of these are found only in northwestern Vietnam and are of great biological importance.

Hoang Lien montaña

  • Ham Rong

Located next to the city, this mountain is one of the best points to visit in Sapa. This mountain is characterized by the dragon head shape that glimpses faintly in the thin veil of dawn, the mountain Ham Rong (Dragon Jaw), which is a perfect combination of natural and artificial landscape, is an attractive tourist area in the downtown of Sapa.

What to see

Ham Rong is home to numerous types of flowers and orchards. Stone paths along trails take tourists to the wild peach forest, then to the orchid gardens with more than 6000 orchid plants belonging to 194 types. In addition, many native and exotic flowers are cultivated along paths such as the Nile of the Nile, hydrangeas, geraniums, ox-eye daisies and cheerful flowers. Mountain fruits such as peach, plum and pear are also found here. The landscape hidden in the fog and the echo sound of the bamboo flute of the Mong minority boy, make this place a paradise on earth.

Another interesting activity is the conquest of San May (Cloud Yard), the peak of Ham Rong mountain at an altitude of 1800m to enjoy the impressive panorama of the city of Sapa. On sunny days, from here tourists can even see the peak of Fansipan under a clear sky with white clouds floating around. On the way to San May, tourists can stop by Cong Troi 1 and Cong Troi 2 (La puerta del cielo, one of the best mirares in Sapa) to rest and take pictures. These places also offer visitors a great view of the French villas and the attached fields below.

Montaña Ham Rong

  • Ngu Chi Son

The Ngu Chi Son mountain range is known as the most beautiful in the northwest, consisting of five major mountains that extend to the southwest – northeast. Ngu Chi Son is 3,000 m high and is the second highest mountain, just behind Mount Fansipan. That is why it is completely suggested that you go through the fabulous Cong Troi or Tram Ton Pass and then try to reach the top of this mountain. It will be interesting and a good challenge, especially if you are one of those who do not want to do something common.

 

¿How to move around Sapa?

One of the greatest pleasures you can experience is walking Sapa, without haste, and enjoying the scenery, the green of the mountain and breathing fresh air. Without a doubt, a revitalizing experience for your mind. If you want to visit more remote sites, you will need a transport because the distances are much longer, a bicycle or a motorcycle can be the ideal option to travel the farthest points. You can also resort to the option of using a taxi or a private driver, but you will not live in first person.

 

Trekkings in Sapa

Walking around Sapa is a great way to spend time, connect with nature and discover a little more about what makes the people who inhabit these areas different. Here are some routes to do:

  • Go from Sapa to Ta Van passing Cat Cat, and Lin Ho and Lao Chai.

The total distance is about 10 km, and is the best way to get into the culture and discover how are the villages of the Hmong ethnic group. You can also say that you are going to discover the Muong Ha valley. Possibly, the best option to do it in full is to spend a night with a local family.

  • Go from Sapa to Sin Chai.

They are around 4 km and it is a less known route than the road to Cat Cat.

  • Go from Bac Ha to Thai Giang.

It is a route of around 8 km with a beautiful background landscape.

Ruta de trekking en Sapa

 

Sapa with motorbike

If what you like is to take the bike and drive through spectacular places without looking in the rear-view mirror… Sapa is your destination! Rent your motorbike and simply drive and enjoy the scenery. That’s right, do not forget to mark the starting point in the GPS in case you get lost.

Renting a motorcycle in Sapa will cost you around 120,000 VND per day, depending on whether you want it automatic or manual, and you have to return it at approximately 6:00 p.m. They are not 24 hour rentals. Check it before going up, especially if you intend to go a long way. Since the roads of this area do not stand out for being little bumpy… better avoid surprises!

Some of the routes that we propose to do by motorcycle are the following:

  • Sapa – Tha Bac Waterfall – Tram Ton Pass – Y Quoc Ho – Love Waterfall.

  • Go from Sapa to Ta Phin Village.

  • Go from Sapa to Ban Ho Village.

Ruta en moto por Sapa

Acommodation with local family: the best option in Sapa

Sapa is a different part of Vietnam that you will find in the most important cities and well-known tourist sites. You will like this other side of the country and its mountains and wide valleys, lively rivers, bamboo forests and specially the lovely people, with are knowed because of their colorful clothes and broad smiles. You also can find fields with rice terraces that imitate the infinity of the sea, ethnic villages at the top of its hills or between flooded fields, children who look at you astonished as they never see a tourist before, people accustomed to living hard times and surpassing the vicissitudes of the life. The best way to enjoy this experience is to find accommodation with a local family, as they will open the doors of your home, show you their culture and help you in the most difficult points during a route to climb the mountain.

Alojamiento en Sapa

Accomodation in Sapa

Sapa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in northern Vietnam. It is a small village located between green mountains and rice terraces, inhabited by people of different ethnicities. Of the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam, eight live in the hills around Sapa: Hmong, Thai, Dao, Tay, Xa Pho, Moung, Hoa and Giay.

It’s a popular destination for both international and national tourists. This means that on weekends, the occupation of this small town is somewhat higher and, if you plan to go, you have to book in advance both your accommodation and transportation.

Another aspect to keep in mind for traveler that wants to do this place at their own, it’s that Sapa can be a very frustrating experience. This is because the tourist exploitation of this area is very high, with dozens of hotels, restaurants and travel agencies. Everything is very organized and accessible, but sometimes you are going to miss the factor of authenticity to this experience. Probably you are going to share your trekking route is shared with many other tourists. Or probably you stay at the home of a local family that sometimes does not speak English and sometimes they are tired of receiving so many tourists. Many of the tourists are attracted by the possibility of doing something different and connect with the authenticity and tradition of the area and end up sharing routes with a large group of tourists, in a hotel similar to those of their country and eating western food.

Hotels in Sapa

If you are looking for a mountain route and a good rest away from the city, even with the possibility to enjoy for a while in a spa, heated pool or receiving a massage and you have a good budget, this is your option. You are going to give up the authenticity and try to discover how local ethnic groups and tribes live, but you can enjoy the fresh air and enjoy the tranquility of this area without sacrificing any comfort.

The list of 10 best hotels in Sapa

  • Aira Boutique Sapa Hotel & Spa

Located near the edge of a mountain and far enough from the busy city center of Sapa, just 5 minutes walk from the central Catholic stone church. It offers views of the Fansipan mountain and the Muong Hoa valley. In terms of services, it has access to Internet, gym, outdoor pool and Spa. From $ 144 per night.

  • Sapa Dragon Hotel

It is a traditional mountain chalet complete with stone fireplace. It is located two minutes walk from the stone church Sa Pa and at the foot of the Ham Rong mountain. Sapa Dragon Hotel occupies an unprecedented location overlooking the valleys of Sapa and the imposing Ham Rong mountain. Starting at $ 41 per night.

  • Sapa Freesia Hotel

Located in Sa Pa, only 350 meters from Sa Pa Lake, it offers comfortable rooms with air conditioning. The hotel has an indoor pool, fitness center, garden, restaurant and free WiFi. From $ 88 per night.

  • Sapa Clay House – Mountain Retreat

It is a building dating from 2016, and offers a garden and rooms with free Wi-Fi. The establishment has a 24-hour reception, a restaurant and a terrace. The Fansipan Legend cable car station is 4 km from the hotel and the Fansipan mountain is 9 km away.

  • Sapa Horizon Hotel

Sapa Horizon Hotel is centrally located less than 50 meters from the famous Sa Pa Market and Nha Tho Da Church. It offers picturesque views of the mountain and free Wi-Fi throughout.

  • Cat Cat Garden Hotel

It is located on a hill deep in the mountains of Hoang Lien National Park, just 5 minutes from Sapa. It has 10 mountain rooms, all built as rustic houses of a local white granite cottage style. A quiet place to get away from the bustling life of the city.

  • Eco Palms House

It is located in Lao Chai. It has 6 private bungalows, each of which is designed as a local house of minority groups in Sapa: a Black H’Mong House, a Flower H’Mong House, a Red Dzao House, a Dzay House, a Tay House and a Xa Pho House They also have cooking classes.

  • Sapa Legend Hotel & Spa

It is a four star hotel that offers luxury facilities, a first class service and an excellent accommodation experience for each guest.

  • Topas Ecolodge

Topas Ecolodge is a small hotel located on a beautiful hill deep in the mountains of Hoang Lien National Park, just 45 minutes outside the city of Sapa. It has 33 mountain bungalows, all built as rustic houses of individual style of local white granite. Each bungalow has an informal style with a private balcony.

  • Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa

The Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa, overlooking the lake of Sa Pa, is a traditional mountain chalet that blends perfectly with the natural environment. It consists of a heated indoor pool, a restaurant and a bar, as well as offering a variety of outdoor activities and leisure facilities. It even has an exclusive train line for the clients of this establishment.

Hostels in Sapa

Staying in a hostel is always a good way to save some money in accommodation, at the same time it becomes an opportunity to meet people if you opt for a bed in a shared room. You renounce some of the extra comforts but in return you get an affordable price, something that is not bad when all you are looking for is a bed, a good shower and Internet connection after a long day exploring the surroundings of this town and the terraces of rice.

Hostales en Sapa para pasar la noche por 10$ o menos

  • Sapa Sunflower Hotel
  • Sapa Honeymoon Hotel
  • Dzay House Homestay
  • Sa Pa Hieu Dang Hotel
  • Pumpkin Sapa Hotel
  • Hang Nga Guest house

Sapa construcción

Casa local en Sapa

Stay with a local family in Sapa

Many of the local families income comes from selling souvenirs to the tourists, as a result of this, many children stopped going to school to dedicate themselves to this trade. Which is not good, especially for the development of these. As you will see when you get to Sapa the insistence of the vendors will overwhelm you. You have to keep in mind that it is their way of being, of earn their incomes, they are the same even with local people. But when you live in first person the experience of living with them, those same people who can become so tedious trying to show you and sell their bracelets, are the ones who will help you if you need it and will look at you with curiosity when you pass through their villages. Trying to understand what a tourist does in that remote place.

As for their communities, they are usually formed by around 10 wooden houses that are not usually placed facing each other. Depending on the village you are in, there is usually a communal house with bamboo pillars where you they receive their guests. Usually, they are received by the man of the house who gives them a drink as a welcome. The women work in the fields, take care of the children, weave, cook and go to the market. Meanwhile, the men guard the house or the buffalos. The children go to school, help the mother and also sell simple crafts such as cloth bracelets.

As advice if you pretend that you stop trying to sell, one way to stop them from trying to sell you something is to take a picture, it works with the children. Not so with mothers who pose smiling with all their ornaments.

Staying at least one night in a traditional family house in the hills is an unmissable activity for those who are interested in knowing the culture. The price that they usually will charge per night ranges between 15 and 25 USD (depending on your negotiation capacity) and includes the walk to the village with a guide, thick blankets to sleep and four homemade meals with the traditional local rice wine. It is convenient to agree everything in Sapa before arriving at the house where you are going to stay. In this way, you can avoid extra charges or scams because they include some extra that was not previously agreed. Keep in mind that some houses have hot showers but others do not so it’s best to ask. Especially, if you are going for more than two days, or if you are one of those who need a good hot shower after a long and hard day of trekking.

As for the reservation, the usual procedure is that you do not make any reservation and that upon your arrival in Sapa, you will negotiate with one of the women who will proactively offer you stay at their homestay. In fact, they may be so many that they allow you to adjust the price a little. Because if they have something in common these negotiations is that the initial price is usually something crazy, and you have to bargain to get a fair price.

On the other hand, if you are one of those who prefer to travel quietly and with everything reserved, local houses like Zizi Homestay is a good option. Since you will find yourself sharing a house with a black Hmong family and you will be able to see what is the daily life in one of these villas. This is concrete is the best option to stay in a hostel with more backpackers and to meet people, at the same time you try the food, or feel the same as one of these families.

Things to take in mind:

  • There are many villages and many roads. Make sure that the town is at a reasonable distance to make a route of 3 or 4 hours, or whatever you want. But keep in mind these facotres, especially if you have booked buses or trains back.
  • The road to the village can be an unpaved road. The largest towns are on the main roads, where tourists have to pay to walk by (tourist tax). A village in the mountains, more remote, usually has a more picturesque road and no toll booths. So the more you want to immerse yourself in the more real life, the more complex the path you have to travel.
  • The houses in the mountain villages are very rustic. They are usually made of wood, with a dirt floor and without a bathroom. In some cases you will have to sleep on the ground and there may be some bugs and mosquitoes. Do not expect much, relax and enjoy a day of experience. Is that why you chose to live the real experience?
  • Do not take the big backpack to the route. The best option is to book a guesthouse for the next day and leave the backpack there. This is something more personal and depends on how you have organized yourself, but due to the complexity of the roads it may be that the big backpack is somewhat uncomfortable if you have to climb some complicated slope.

Zizi Homestay

¿Why is better stay with a local family in Sapa?

As we mentioned earlier, Sapa is one of the few places that has kept alive the oldest traditions of northern Vietnam. In this area there are still six different ethnic groups that maintain many of their ancient traditions, so live a few days with them can serve as a great experience to check the amount of amenities you have in your hometown. Above all you must take into account if your intention is to do something different, as this town it’s full of hotels and hostels that make you lose the essence of the cultural wealth that houses this place in northern Vietnam.

You will be able to experience who is to live in the nature in first person, their daily routine does not end because it ends because they have guests in their homes. If there is a wedding or ritual to do, the guests will be part of that tradition. With the cultural value that is going to bring to your experience. You have to think that at the beginning of the rice growing season, new years, weddings or funerals require a tradition different from the Western one. So open your eyes, listen and, above all, respect and be part of their traditions.

Family dinner at Zizi Homestay in Sapa

You will be able to enjoy with the natural thing that is everything, here the politically correct thing does not exist. Perfectly, you can be enjoying the fresh air and finding a herd of pigs or a buffalo passing behind you. It is what makes this real. At the same time that you can play with all the animals that are there, especially you will like to see how well cared dogs are cared for in the houses.

Another thing that you can do in this experience is observe and learn how are their traditions or how they do their things, even try to help them with domestic tasks. It may be that you hallucinate with the strength that Hmong women or of any other tribe have acquired in the wake of years of work. And you can even learn to cook some of their typical dishes. But one of the things that can bring you the most, is to try to help children with their homework, teach them English or how to use functions in a mobile phone.

Because, finally, introduce them to our culture, it is to give them an opportunity to be free, that they can study what they like, learn about what they like and that, if at any time they want to stop selling souvenirs and annoy tourists, they can do it thanks to the help you gave them.

Especially you will find it useful to count the presence of a local person if you decide to go out for a trekking route, since you can do it on your own. But you may end up lost or not enjoying the most beautiful places on the route. So hire a local guide can be a good investment. The best thing about negotiating when you are staying in a local house is that you know that there are no intermediaries that do business with it.

But it’s just good to breathe fresh air at least a few days, leave the city, change the noises of the horns of the vehicles for the ones that emit the animals, that if there is no Wi-Fi connection does not become a problem and that you enjoy with the simple things.

Fansipan mountain in december

Guide to visit Sapa in december

If you are planning to visit Sapa in December, you must read this guide with some tips and reasons to show you what to do during this month during your visit to this stunning town located on the spectacular valley of the Hoang Lien Son Mountains in the North West region of Vietnam.

 

The weather

The best time to visit Sapa is from March to May and from September to November. At these times, the weather is relatively stable with sunny days and cool nights. The view of Sapa’s terraces is at its best between September and October, during the fall. The weather is more cold and misty the whole time but still wonderful views and certainly still green, than in other seasons of the year. The weather in Sapa it’s really special and hard to predict, mornings and afternoons are specially foggy and temperatures are colder. But no so cold as Vietnamese people are going to tell you. So, probably, you can enjoy a sunny day in Sapa in december. As you can see in the following pictures.

 

The daily average temperature for Sapa in December is approximately 10 °C.  However, it’s generally slightly warmer than the weather in some parts of Europe. As in November, it’s a great time to enjoy the outdoor activities that your are able to practice in the area like walking or cycling. Humidity for the town can reach 82% but due to the cooler temperatures, visitors shouldn’t expect any discomfort.

If you need more to know the weather with more precision, you can check the weather prediction for Sapa in December.

 

What to wear in Sapa in December?

Trekking it’s the main activity, don’t forget to pack all your equipment to be comfortable during this activity. You have available different kinds of trekkings, so you have to be prepared to achieve your goal. There you have a few tips:

  • Don’t forget your rain jacket. Weather changes a lot, so it would be required if you preffer to come back to your homestay dry. Also, if a rain jack it’s too hot to wear during your way, you can carry a cheap plastic raincoast (the cheapest option) or an umbrella. In adition, waterproof jackets are a good option to avoid the cold because it’s a way to stop the humidity.
  • Pack at least a fleece Jacket or/and a light sweater. Night time in sapa begins to get colder than normal, and it’s the best way to avoid a cold. If you are very sensitive to cold wear a warm sweater could be a good option.
  • Shoes with very good tread are a must, because trails can get very slick with mud after it rains.
  • Insect repellent.
  • During the day you could have a warm temperature, so wear T-shirts or shorts under long clothes it’s a good recommendation. Specially, if you choose a intensive trek.

Sapa trekking in December in Ta Van Village Local guide with umbrella

Tips to visit Sapa in December

Most of the people come to visit to admire the views of the rice fields, but after the haverst and with the new plant the views are also stunning. In December, they already had finished the haversting, and you can see the curvy terraces filled with water and that looks pretty amazing. All the rice are collected and waiting for the new season.

 

Fansipan Mountain

Probably you think that it’s not the best moment to hike to the top of the “Rooftop of Indochina”, but probably you are not right. In December, the weather it’s colder but that’s good when you are hiking. The views are going to continue being amazing, because you are above the clouds… A really amazing sensation! You are not going to feel warm and the same sensation of fatigue than in a warm day. If you have the choice, don’t hesitate to go to the top!

Fansipan mountain in december

Views from Fansipan in December

Visit Sapa Market

Located in the center of Sapa, Sapa Market is the convergence of goods exchanging among ethnic minorities in the region. Sapa is seemly situated in the center of villages in whole region at the foothills of Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range. This is also the junction of the roads from villages located in valleys to the north, namely Ta Giang Phinh, Ban Khoang to southern village such as Ban Ho, Suoi Thau, Ta Van, Lao Chai. In a large area, Sapa is an ideal convergence for trading activities and exchange of goods among ethnic minorities; simultaneously, it is also the perfect rendezvous in the unique cultural feature of the upland people.  Sapa Market is usually held on every Sunday. Those who live in the remote region often have to start their journey from the previous day to catch up with the fair. On Saturday night, many people early come to the market gather and cheer together with the folk songs of boys and girls in Hmong and Dao villages along with the sounds of lip lute, flute, panpipe… All seems much closer to each other though they have not ever seen before. They chat together under the flickering firelight. And, of course, you can try the most famous local food. You know that you are near the market when you begin to smell the barbeque food. In conclusion, Sapa Market is an opportunity to immerse in the idyllic life with this unique culture.

Sapa market traders

Sapa market fruit

Bac Ha traditional Market

If you enjoy walking around markets you should visit Bac Ha Market, one of the biggest and most well know in all of North Vietnam. Bac Ha Town is a three hour drive from Sapa and the market occurs every Sunday. Is not really the best place for shopping, but is a great location to visit if you are happy to people watch and take in the energy and vibrancy of the occasion. There, you could find many different ethnic groups such as Flower Hmong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere. The best way to enjoy the market in all its glory is to arrive early and leave before the crowds of tourists arrive on the buses between 10am and 11am.

Bac Ha Market

Flower H’mong at Bac Ha Sunday Market

 

 

¿What are you going to in Sapa in December?

 

 

Can Cau market saturdays Sapa

Can Cau Market: plan for saturdays in Sapa

Can Cau is a busy market which is held every Saturday and is organized in business practices of Dao people. Located just 9 km south below the Chinese border, it is a colourful and vibrant market. You will find different minority peoples such as the Flower H’mong (Red H’mong), Nung, Phu La and even Chinese people from across the border. Their travel is often made by horseback as a way of carrying the heavy loads to and from market.

Can Cau market

How to go to Can Cau Market

It’s hard to find foreigners in Can Cau, compared than other places or markets in Sapa, because you have to spend a large journey to come there. either with a small tour group with a private driver or, you can find more adventurous people, who make the path on the back of a motorbike.

From Lao Cai province, along the national road 4D, visitors will come to Bao Thang district, Lao Cai province. It is far about 100km from the market to Lao Cai city to the northeast, so it’s a 2 hour drive. Down the 4D Highway from Lao Cai City, tourists will reach Phong Nien commune, Bao Thang district, Lao Cai province. Keeping driving along 153 Provincial Highway through Bac Ha town, tourists will set foot in Can Cau Market. If you want to go with public transport, the buses only run at 08:00 or 09:00, that likely means an overnight stay. The bus back from Can Cau to Bac Ha is at 14:00.

From Sapa, you have to spent a 3 hours drive. So you really have to wake up early and spend a lot of time in the road, so this option it’s not the most recommended. One good option, could be travel this market, make an overnigth in Bac Ha and visit Bac Ha Market on Sunday.

Through the town of Bac Ha, tourists will come to the Can Cau fair. From a distance, the fair of Can Cau is very beautiful and vivid. The fair has meeting along roadside 153-the only road connects the town with the town of Si Ma Cai. There have terraced fields around the market with the majestic mountains.
Can Cau Vietnam, Saturday Market
Can Cau Market, Northern Vietnam

Schedule and what you can find in Can Cau Market

As you would expect, the market starts early, around 7:30 am, and closes in the early afternoon so you will want to make an early start to get the most out of the experience.

By 9 am, the market is crammed to capacity. It’s lively and surprisingly fun. The locals are mostly of the Flower Hmong minority group. You can’t miss them and their traditional costume of green checked headdress and multi-colored, meticiculosly stitched and layered garments are simply stunning.

All kinds of goods are traded here, from fabrics to various types of livestock to the powerful local corn wine.

The market is divided into separate areas for all kinds of items. Those goods such as: vegetables, herbs, spices, utensils and other products, which shows the talent of women. However, the most striking is the area where sell livestock because the H’Mong and Giay love livestock and want to select the best cattle. The atmosphere in this area is very vibrant; buyers, sellers have the deal.

Besides, the area for the traditional food of people is quite exciting. Having a multitude of different sounds, visitors will have chance to sit down and enjoy the ethnic cuisine of them. Of all the dishes in Can Cau market, “thang co” will be the most favorite cuisine of ethnic. This dish is combined all kinds of organs of some animals such as: pigs, cows, buffalo…

Can Cau Market local people
Can Cau Market H'mong woman
can.cau market local sellers

Hoang A Tuong Palace front view

Hoang a Tuong Palace: a place for Hmong King

History of Hoàng A Tưởng Palace

Hoàng A Tưởng Palace (Hoang A Tuong Palace for us) was built in 1914 and completed in 1921. Hoàng Yến Chao was from the ethnic Tày group, he was the father of Hoàng A Tưởng. He decided to build this Palace for himself. Is a bizarre palace constructed in a kind of ‘oriental baroque’ style on the northern edge of Bac Ha. After nearly 100 years of existence, it is still standing between the majestic land known as the “White Highland” and the Sun.

These Tay ethnic minority men were reportedly regarded as “kings” of the Bac Ha region and ruled a region where 70% of the population were H’Mong people before 1945.

During his reign from 1905 – 1953, with the protection of France, Hoàng Yến Chao owned much of the fertile land in this area, and had the full right to exploit the surrounding forests and native products. He established a tax regime that required all of the people to pay tax on the products that they grew or made. He also had a monopoly on the sale of salt, drugs, food and other consumer goods, considered essential necessities in the region. During his long reign, he accumulated a huge amount of assets. Based on economic strength, in 1914 he decided to build this Palace to represent his wealth and power.
Hoang A Tuong Palace Bac Ha history
Entrance to the courtyard of the Hoang A Tuong palace

 

Hoang Yen Tchao family history

Hoang Yen Tchao had three wives and total of seven children, including two sons and five daughters. His first wife was of the Tay ethnic. She met Mr. TChao when he was just a regular civilian and they were married out of love for one another. She bore him three children, two sons and a daughter. The eldest son was Hoang A Tien and the second one was Hoang A Tuong. His second wife was the most miserable because she married him for his wealth and riches. She was only his second wife for a short time and then she got sick and died. She did not have any assets and nobody knew that she existed. She bore him two daughters and died while she was still very young.

Mr.TChao and his first wife

Mr.TChao and his first wife. Image from sapa-tourism.com

However, she didn’t die long before, Hoang yen TChao quickly took over as his third wife. She was of the Chinese descent. She went to Bac Ha to do business, with the sharp beauty of Chinese girls, her appearance caught the “eye” of the ” Hmong King”. She was a business woman and was very independent. She also had a successful business in which she was doing very well. She was married to Mr. Tchao for a short time and bore him two daughters. She did not like living in Mr. Tchao’s palace and so she moved to live outside of the palace. There she did business herself and did not rely on him for anything.

The third wife and her daughters. Image from sapa-tourism.com

Among Mr. Tchao’s children, Hoang A Tuong was revered as the most intelligent and was the dearest of Hoang Yen Tchao’s children. He was chosen as his father’s replacement to take over all the work. Mr Tchao was the “Hmong King ” but he didn’t name his palace after the eldest son, but his youngest son.

Leaving Bac Ha and the palace was short lived but the stories of their families still having lasting imprints on my mind. There is still so many mysteries around the palace.

 

Building Hoang A Tuong Palace

In order to prepare for the construction of this Palace, Hoàng Yến Chao had to plan very carefully. First he consulted with Chinese feng-shui experts to find the best location to build the Palace. The site was selected according to the Feng-shui theory of location. It was built on a large hill, facing south east, protected on both sides by mountains, the front has a spring and facing the mountain named “Mother is holding her baby”. Overall the topography in the area is beautiful, a charming “painting”, capturing the picturesque views and perfect Asian climate.

Hoang A Tuong had deliberately prepared materials for building the castle. Cement and steel were flown from the plains, while the bricks and tiles were manufactured on the spot with clay in the heart of the mountain range under the supervision of Chinese experts. The whole edifice was built of baked bricks and employed a binding agent with lime and beeswax. Workers were the best builders from prisons. Surrounding Hoang A Tuong Castle was the thick fence consisting of 3 gates (1 main gate and 2 auxiliary ones). Four side walls were crenellated fences and guarded by 2 platoons. In particular, behind the castle offered a solid and extremely secretive escaping tunnel.
Hoang a Tuong Palace tunnel stairs
The mansion was left uninhabited for many years as Hoang A Tuong had to live in exile in France after the region was liberated by revolutionary soldiers in the autumn of 1945. Nearly a century has gone by since its completion, the building remains intact and its Asian European-architecture still shines under sunshine.

The main two-storey mansion is surrounded by auxiliary houses on the left and the right, and has beautiful decorations on its façade and inside its rooms. Internal structure of the castle is fairly beautiful. Through the main entrance, a large yard inside is former home to organize main activities of the tribal mandarin’s family. Backcourt main building retains two floors with an area of 420m², which is often used for the meeting place of the family. Tourists setting foot in the castle have to walk up 17 stairs from both sides, then to the sheltered lounge. Additionally, the castle also has other construction items such as two auxiliary blocks on both sides. Each has two floors and is lower than the main building with an area of 300m². This is private space of Hoang Yen Chao’s wives and Hoang A Tuong’s wives. There are also two sub-blocks with simpler architecture used as accommodation for soldiers and servants.

The castle covers an area of 4,000m² in which the main building occupies 420m², Occupying a pivotal position overlooking the Bac Ha valley. In front of its arched doors are earthen banks. Its network of walls, bunkers, and battlements were reinforced by a mortar mixed with sugar molasses. In a distance, the white castle jutting out from the valley looks imposing and majestic. At present, this castle is put under a restoration scheme to better help tourists get insight into the changes of the local life.
Hoang A Tuong Castle in Sapa

Visiting this place you have an opportunity to learn about the live of a family of the ruling class and part of Bac Ha’s history in the past.

In adition to the palace, you can also visit Bac Ha traditional market.

Ta Van Village rice terrace views

Ta Van Village what to see & travel tips from Sapa

Ta Van Village is a place where many Vietnam ethnic minority groups gathering and living in harmony with each other. Having a trip to Ta Van, you can explore the cultures of ethnic minority groups and enjoy trips to peaceful villages where many traditional customs of ethnic people in Vietnam are well preserved. Is one of ideal destinations in Vietnam for both domestic and international tourists.

Being one of the most stunning spots in Sapa, far away from Sapa busy streets, about 8 km distance from the town center. Ta Van is home of ethnics living and you can find over 110 households living in this village. So the best way to enjoy is choose to stay overnight at the homestay in Ta Van village to fully experience. Is one of the Sapa day trips that you must do.
Tả Van Village in Sapa
Ta Van Village air view of the town

How to go to Ta Van Village

During the road to Ta Van you can enjoy a great trek amongst the beautiful rice paddy and corn terrace fields. Also, it’s usual than a group of local people join you in the way to the village. Located at the mountain base, Ta Van village is approximated 7 – 11 km away from the center of Sapa, depending what route you take. The road to Ta Van Village is quite small and narrow. Two sides of the village are covered by fertile terraced fields embellished with the green color of corns and rice plants. This fabulous destination owns lots of must-sees for your trip to Sapa, Vietnam like the mysterious Ancient Rock Field

The best choice it’s hire a guide to trek to Ta Van. But if you go during the summertime, you can rent out a scooter and get to Ta Van this way. It’s the best way to avoid the high temperatures in this season. Homewer, tt’s not impossible to do it in other seasons but it’s more dangerous due to  slippery muddy road.

It was built a road for car; however, the trail from Y Linh Ho crossing Lao Chai to Ta Van is the best path to get the most amazing trek and it is definitely recommended. On your trip to Ta Van Village, along with dreamy beautiful Muong Hoa Valley which sometimes looks so magnetic and mysterious under the fog, you also have a chance to witness floating clouds atop of imposing Fansipan Peak.
Ta Van Village bridge
Ta Van Village rice terrace padies

Local people in Ta Van Village

In Ta Van village, there are two major minorities groups: the Giay and the Dao. As soon as you cross over the wooden bridge through the Muong Hoa water stream, which connect Ta Van village to the outside, you’ll be able to meet the Giay community. A bit further up the hill is the Dao community. The people here make their living mainly based on farming and occasionally homestay services.

Ta Van Village was formed by a group of Giay people in Lao Cai province. These people settled in areas having low topography such as foothills and valleys along streams or rivers. Due to living in the same residential locality, in the course of history, Giay people have exchanged and under the influence of different cultures from other ethnic groups such as Tay, Thai, Nung. This intercultural phenomenon has greatly contributed in creating a diverse culture in the village. Ta Van Village has a diverse system of folklore including fairy tales, riddles, and proverbs. This is also a place of many traditional festivals such as Tet holidays in January and July, full moon festivals in May and August, etc.

Growing rice is the major profession of the Giay. Besides, they also produce instruments and engraved silver. They live in both stilted houses and common houses with a solemn central part which is served as a place for ancestor altar and guest reception. The Giay have quite various cultures with fairy-tale, poetry, proverbs and riddles. Costumes of the Giay are simple: women with short eczema, wearing cloth bag with embroidered flowers; man also wears pants and shirt. If having the opportunity to come here, visitors can enjoy some special dishes of ethnic Giay such as: roast fish of Muong Hum, horse meat of Muong Khuong, sticky rice of Van Ban… and enjoy festivals, folk games of the Giay: Nao Cong, Roong Pooc… and participate in tours of the village.

The month of October (according to the Lunar calendar, which often falls in mid-November or December depending on the lunar year) rolls around would mean the wedding season for the Giay community. If you ever visit the village during this period of time, be prepared to be fascinated with the Giay traditional wedding customs which involves a lot of dancing, singing and loud instruments playing.
Ta Van Village local food
Ta Van Village local people harvesting rice
Ta Van Village local people

Homestay in Ta Van Village

Although Giay people mainly make a living by rice cultivation and silver carvings, they also open homestay services to serve the needs of tourists when travelling the village. Homestay is a kind of a special tourism service in Ta Van Village in which tourists will live with local residents in their house. Arriving in the village, many tidy and clean houses hang a signboard “Homestay”, which are always ready to welcome tourists. Using this service may be a memorable experience of tourists because you will have a chance to experience daily activities with Giay people. In these days, Giay people will serve tourists traditional dishes that they often eat every day. The ingredients of these foods are homemade products made by local people such as fresh vegetables, chicken, pigs, fishes, etc. Although these are very popular ingredients, through a special process of cooking, it promises to leave visitors a long lasting impression. In addition, through such a simple meal, tourists may gradually feel the familiar and close connection with local people here. In the next days, tourists will also be served some specialties of Giay people like grilled fishes caught from Muong Hum stream, Muong Khuong horsemeat, Bac Ha pork meat, Van Ban five color glutinous rice, and so on.

Life in Ta Van Village doesn’t get much affected by the booming tourism service in the recent year. The minorities group would go on with their everyday activities as if nothing has happened. Some seldomly get shy to start the conversation with the tourists, making the homestay services in Ta Van special. You get to truly enjoy a day as a part of the real minority group.

Houses here are built along the slope of the rice paddy terrace fields, and are made out of wood entirely. The view from these houses is simply stunning. Anyone who decides to stay overnight here will be speechless to wake up with such an amazing view, a view that you won’t never ever see in your daily city life.

Despite the fact that electricity has been in the village for less than the decade, the people here doesn’t heavily rely on it. They go farming at dawn, and get back home at sunset. The village can actually get really quiet during the day, and becomes exceedingly crowded with all sort of entertaining at night. The people in Ta Van Village would gather together and do their usual nightly musical show routine to celebrate a whole day of hard working. There will be traditional fan dancing, bamboo dancing, multi bamboo flute dancing, etc.,  all are dancing around the huge camp fire. you will not need to worry about the facilities because the locals equip with essential appliances and devices so that it will be always convenient and efficient for you taking a relaxation after a long-day trip.
Tả Van Village local house

Lao Chai Village

Lao Chai Village: discover Hmong culture

Lao Chai village, home to the black H’mong people, is located about 6 km from Sapa town. Just follow the main road for about 8 km, and then you’ll see a path down the valley to the right which will lead you to Lao Chai Village. The village is backed by high mountain ranges and situated near Muong Hoa river. Here you will enjoy the best panoramic view of rice terraces and streams and explore three large villages with over 100 families of the Black H’mong ethnic. Ethnic people in Vietnam are very hospitable and friendly. Going around this village, you will easily make friends and have chance to learn about local culture and customs.

Lao Chai almost lies in the middle of rice and corn terraces, so you also have a good chance to trace along with narrow but fabulous path on the fields to contemplate the whole zone of terraces. Best time to visit it’s from September to next April on which the village is so attractive with the most wonderful rice terraced fields.

Lao Chai Village
Lao Chai Village terrace padies after harvesting

How to go to Lao Chai Village

As you can see, Lao Chai is not too far from Sapa, so you can take a one day trail on your own. If you feel confident, of course.

There’s another good point to visit during this trip, Ta Phin Village.

You may go by car or motorbike to get to the villages but it shall be more stunning if you spend time trekking following the path along with the mountain side to go there. A trek is always the best recommendation to explore Sapa’s ethnic villages and their very culture and customs.

Lao Cai or Sapa and the Northwest of Vietnam in narrow sense often is developed it tourism industry with a form of community-based tourism, so then trekking to Lao Chai village learning about the local’s life and exploring the beauty of the very nature in the village are some of the most interesting and appreciated activities when coming to the upland town. By the way, it is very nice when from a high position on the main road, you can get great panorama of the whole village looming in high mountains along with the most beautiful river.

The trip must be very interesting when you mix with groups of H’Mong people on their ways to the village or to the terraces for work and though they intend to make some business, they do not force you to buy their products but chat with you friendly and share their experience and life. The children in villages love seeing the strangers coming to their homes, they are always happy for such small gifts. You do not forget to take some used comics or newspapers, magazines as gifts for them. However, absolutely do not give them money. It is a kind of unwritten rule.
Lao Chai, Mu Cang Chai, terrace padies
Children in Lao Chai road

Lao Chay Map

Lao Chai Village map

Lao Chai map by CBT Vietnam

 

Local ethnics in Lao Chai Village

 

The Giay

Only 2% of Sapa’s population comes from the Giay ethnic group, and so it can be tough to discover much about this fascinating community that immigrated to Vietnam from China only two centuries ago. A majority of Vietnam’s Giay group live in more northern provinces in the country where a stilted house (the traditional-style home) is common even now. In the sunny and fertile Lao Chai village, though, Giay homes have adapted to be closer to be only one story, usually with a simple interior in a dirt floor.
Distinct from the H’mong communities they live alongside, the Giay wear relatively simple clothing that boasts splashy, vibrant colours but less ornamentation than H’mong textiles. Thanks to their geographic roots, a whole host of Giay cultural elements feel distinctly Chinese, with the group’s clothing and cuisine borrowing flavours from Vietnam’s northern cousin. In Lao Chai, the Giay sustain their livelihoods and health in much the same way as the H’mong – by raising livestock and tending to endless rice terraces and mountain fields.

 

The Black H’mong

Making up a significant part of Sapa’s ethnic minority population, the H’mong community in Lao Chai is one of many scattered throughout the town’s verdant valleys. The Black H’mong are a distinct community within the larger H’mong ethnic group – so named after the deep indigo dye used in nearly all of their traditional clothing. Green, blue and purple is highlighted with splashes of red – and the Black H’mong’s uniquely vivid textiles have become a favourite element in souvenir shops and markets throughout all of Vietnam.

Black H’mong communities remain deeply traditional, with men and women often getting married as young as their mid-teens. It’s not unusual to meet a local H’mong villager of 25 that already has a handful of children. Instead, most families live off of the land and rely very little on income from selling textiles in local markets. Only when buying livestock or home goods will Black H’mong families need money. Most (if not all) of their food comes from their crops and animals.

The locals houses are built on the half side of the mountain to prevent from floods on the wet season. The H’mong here focus their cultivation in rice farming which is carried out on the lower land close to the bottom of the valley and sometimes they cultivate corn on the mountain slopes on terraces as the subsidiary food for life.

 

What to do in Lao Chai Village

With the form of community-based tourism, you will have a chance to experience handicraft manufacturing operations along with the travelling route, in which includes brocade weaving, traditional dyeing and more. Then you are highly recommended buying such products not only for their distinction and beauty but also the practical features with good benefits such as brocade scarves, embroidering cushions, especially ethnic instruments like “Khen”, “Dan moi” for beautiful souvenirs.
You can participate in the local’s routines by staying in their rudimental houses, communicating with such hospital and friendly ethics and mingling with their life which is definitely close with natural space and particularly enjoying their local dishes with exotic but yummy taste that always deserve at least a try. Thus, on your way to Lao Chai, you might receive simple but unforgettable experiences with preserved and precious traditional characteristics and customs of the local here and be obviously impressed with the ethnic’s hospitality and frankness despite the subsistence living.
Family in Lao Chai - Sapa
Black Hmong woman and baby, rice planting, Sapa Vietnam

 

Homestay with local Black Hmong Family

One of the best experiences when travelling to Sapa is a stay in the home of a local Black Hmong family. Thanks to CBT Vietnam training workshops many homes offer homestay experiences and authentic batik workshops. Within the network of trekking routes in the Sapa Region, Lao Chai does offer an excellent option to stay overnight and learn more about the Hmong culture.

You can find a list of homestays with local people.

Homestay with local family in Lao Chai

Tutorial for doing Sapa in your own way 2

Tutorial for doing Sapa in your own way

When visiting a place like Sapa, where most of the things you are going to do will be in the mountains, the first question that comes to your mind is if you can do it on your own or you need to hire a guide. It will all depend on the time you are going to stay in the area, because it is not the same if you stay only 1-2 days or a week.

It is perfectly possible to visit by foot Sapa and the surrounding villages without a guide, as the valley has a river and all the roads and paths lead to that river, so the only thing you need to do is follow the river. If you want to visit the nearby villages, it is possible to do it on your own too, as they are perfectly marked with the signal posts. Apart from that, you will find a lot of people on your way that will be pleased to help you. This is a good way to know the place in you own pace. You will be able to meet native people, take pictures and stop everywhere you want, while doing some sport.


Another way to visit the surrounding of the town is by renting a motorbike. For a very reasonable price you will find a motorbike for rent in a lot of places in town and the surrounding villages. This is the best option if you really want to visit everything on your own, stopping when you want and not going in the hurry of being part of a group. Once you get out of the town, it is easy to find the places you want to visit or see. All the roads are full of sign posts and there is no way of getting lost. If you don’t have a specific place you want to visit, the best idea is to get a motorbike and get lost in the roads, because everything in Sapa and the surroundings is worth visiting. All around the ways you will find people who will help you if you need indications, so don’t be afraid of renting a bike and getting lost in the area.

If your idea is to spend only a few days and do as much as possible, hiring a guide should be the best idea. With this option you will go straight to the place you want to visit and won’t loose time stopping by. Wherever you are staying, be a hostel, a hotel or a homestay, they will have many different trekking tours that you can book. For a reasonable price you will be guided by a native woman to through the valley, to the mountain or to the bamboo forest. They offer different length walks; some of them last only 4 hours and in others you will overnight in the mountain, in order to make a longer trek to the highest mountain in Indochina, the Fansipan mountain. When getting a guide, you will get to know more about the area you are visiting, as they always tell you interesting facts and are pleased to answer all your questions. You can also hire a driver who will take you to the place you want to visit, making easier to visit further places without having to drive.

If the place you are staying doesn’t offer trekking tours, you will always find an agency in town that organizes them or a native woman that will take you trekking for a reasonable price.

So, as said before, it all depends on the time you will stay in Sapa and the budget you have. If you are staying for a long time, you can both walk/drive on your own and get lost in the impressive area, and get a guide that will take you to the mountain and tell you interesting facts about the place.