"Valley at 1600m" Top 5 Page for this destination Sa Pa by akikonomu

Sa Pa Travel Guide: 133 reviews and 473 photos

Visited Vietnam in the midst of summer - guidebooks tell of rain storms, potential typhoons, leeches in the mountains... Fully geared with waterproof equipment to last me through Sapa.

Was definitely pleased and felt lucky that of the four days in Sa Pa, no heavy rain dampened our mood. It mostly "drizzled heavily" in the mornings and isn't too much of a nuisance.

So where's Sa Pa, and what's so attractive about that place?

Sa Pa is located in the Northern highlands of Vietnam and a 9 hour train ride (plus 1 hour bus ride) away from Hanoi.

A valley situated 1,600m above sea level, it was a small unknown town, where the streets had no name, until recently. Well, not exactly unknown, since the French have been using it as a getaway since colonial days.

It gained recognition as trekkers began to flock to this town in search of the boisterous minority tribe weekend markets, and as a base to conquer Vietnam's tallest mountain - Mount Fansipan.

Things have changed since then, of course. There are street names now and a relatively advanced tourist infrastructure. Weekend markets have now become daily markets (although it is much more boisterous on weekends) and Hmong girls trade with you in perfectly good English. Even wizened Hmong ladies speak a smattering of English (some even Mandarin) good enough to persuade you to walk away with their local handicrafts.

The men - they don't really make their presence felt during the weekend markets, where Hmong and Dao ladies parade around in their refinery (well, according to some guidebooks, many girls no longer go to Sapa for that weekend outing where they get to know prospective spouses - they have moved away due to Sapa becoming increasingly touristy).

On weekdays, you definitely see more Hmong men in their traditional wear moving around town.

Sapa makes a good base for exploring the area where clusters of minority villages are dispersed throughout the valley.

The two main minority groups are the Hmong (miao in Chinese) and Dao (dai). As the northern highlands gain recognition on well trodden tourist tracks, the villages also become exposed to tourism. You'll never be far away from souvenir shops, restaurants and that much needed Coca Cola.

Yes, last of all, a word of caution about mountains and UV rays. Burnt to a crisp again (this seems to have become a trademark of my recent travels; first Hokkaido, then Siem Riep, now Vietnam). It was a pure accident - heavy rain in the morning triggered lazy genes in me to omit that trusty bottle of sunblock. As we trekked up and down the mountain, I began to get this weird sensation of being burnt. Back at the hotel, my entire exposed arms were red and slightly swollen, with that distinctive red tattoo of a T-shirt...

But what I like most are the cool, clean mountain air and friendly natives, half-shy yet half-eager to exchange that wad of dongs from your pockets with their finely crafted handiwork.

  • Last visit to Sa Pa: Aug 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (13)

Comments (7)

  • wen_viaggio's Profile Photo
    Jun 28, 2008 at 9:43 AM

    Nice pics and tips on Sapa! I'm planning to go there in Aug or Sep!

  • dfactor's Profile Photo
    Sep 27, 2006 at 10:21 PM

    Good day. Planning to go to Vietnam in Jan 2007, Sapa looks very interesting. Think will drop by here for a day or two.

  • Sininen's Profile Photo
    Aug 31, 2006 at 10:48 AM

    Hello KC! I never made it to SaPa when in Vietnam so I have a reason to go back there. Great tips and beautiful photos. I agree with you about taking photos of locasl. Happy birthday from Finland!

  • thedouglas's Profile Photo
    Jun 30, 2006 at 6:36 PM

    Absolutely love your tips and pics of this amazing looking obviously must-see place! Thanks for sharing.

  • kelnsha's Profile Photo
    Jun 27, 2006 at 10:13 PM

    Wonderful pages! Just came back last month & I love this place but no time to update. Btw, how do u search for this destination in VT? I tried 'Sapa, Tinh Lao Cai, Vietnam' but only 'Tinh Lao Cai, Vietnam'.

  • bpacker's Profile Photo
    Dec 22, 2005 at 7:40 PM

    I missed this while I was in Hanoi, well, perhaps next year I'll go to this place.

  • sieffron's Profile Photo
    Sep 20, 2005 at 12:43 PM

    Great pages on Sa Pa., KC! You have the only site about the place and thank goodness it's captivating, informative, and comprehensive. I plan to visit Sa Pa in about one month and your pages have gotten me charged up for the trip. Thanks much!


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