Most people take the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa but we decided on the Sapa Express bus and what a good choice it turned out to be. The bus seats were like sitting in business class on a flight and they offered free wifi, snacks, and water. It’s also faster than the train, we were in Sapa in just over 5 hours. Sapa is a town nestled in the mountains along the border of China, it’s also an agricultural area with many terraces along the mountainside growing vegetables, tea, and rice – it’s very scenic!
We were dropped off in the center off town and we admired the scenery while we walked to our hotel. Sapa looked a bit like it had been struck by an earthquake though, there were piles of rocks, bricks, and cement everywhere but they are frantically building new hotels all over town. As we walked we had many villagers approach us wanting to sell us things. They are a little pushy so a firm “no thank you” was necessary more than once. There are several ethnic minorities in this area of Vietnam and we saw the Black Hmong Tribe, Dzao Tribe, and Flower Hmong Tribe.
We checked in to the hotel and we were stunned with the view we had. This was our view from every angle in our room – we had a corner room on the top floor which gave us extra windows.
We had some lunch and took a stroll around town to check things out. We came upon a place for a foot massage and we both thought that would be nice and relaxing. Let me just say that this was a huge reminder of how good the massages are in Thailand. First off we were supposed to soak our feet in a herbal foot bath – they brought water in from outside somewhere and seriously it looked dirty…we reluctantly slid our feet in when we heard some other foreigners thank them for the great massage they had. We looked at each other and said “how bad can it be”? It was SO BAD! A Vietnamese foot massage is basically a bit of slapping the skin, then a light karate chopping motion, then very light rubbing on the knee caps along with a snapping sound they make with their fingers when they pretend to crack your toes….it all felt a bit ‘cheap’. So that was the first and last massage we will ever get in Vietnam!
The next morning we were up early and ready to go on our day long trek with a local guide from the Black Hmong Tribe. We drove up the highest mountain pass – Tram Ton Pass, often referred to as ‘Heavens Gate’. We then stopped at ‘Love Waterfall’, it was a really pretty waterfall.
We also saw ‘Silver Waterfall’ and our guide said we were lucky that it rained last night or this waterfall wouldn’t have been so nice.
After the waterfalls we started our long trek down to Sin Chai Village. The views were really beautiful and we could see Fansipan (the highest mountain in Indochina) as we trekked down into the valley.
We stopped by a little creek for lunch and I was a bit panicky when I saw our guide rinse the tomatoes in the creek. I ate around the tomatoes and avoided them…I didn’t really want a bad case of ‘creek water stomach’.
We continued trekking through rice terraces and passed a couple of little boys who were flinging tires down the hills and then running super fast to go get them – it was hilarious watching them.
We finally reached Sin Chai Village. It’s a small village that is quite spread out and it was nice to see the local life. All in all it was a great trek with gorgeous views of the rice terraces and mountains.
That evening we enjoyed a huge bowl of traditional Pho and browsed through the little shops.
The next day we were up early again but this time to go to Bac Ha for the Sunday market. All the surrounding villages and tribes come together to buy and sell what they need for the week. It was a very colourful market and also interesting to see all the things you could buy, you could even buy a water buffalo here if you wanted.
In the evening we took in the famous ‘Love Market’ which is only held on Saturday evenings. Traditionally this used to be a market where all the hilltribes would get together and try to find a partner for marriage. They play flutes, sing, and dance to woo each other.
On our last day we had time in the morning to visit the botanic garden and it was definitely worth the climb up the mountain to see it, the views over Sapa were really nice. Parts of it were a bit cheesy, like the huge statue of Scooby Doo, but the rest of it was quite beautiful.
One of my favourite things in the botanic garden…a tea party!
On our way down from the botanic garden, we passed all kinds of shops selling a mixture of dried starfish, lizards, and whatever else. We think they were for medicinal purposes.
Late afternoon we boarded our bus back to Hanoi. We really enjoyed Sapa and the scenery was stunning.
Where we stayed: Scenery Hotel Sapa
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel