Trekking in Sapa

Situated high up in northern Vietnam, Sapa is a charming little mountain town full of colour & culture. Many travelers miss this hidden gem… you shouldn’t!! It’s a breath of fresh air…literally… from Vietnam’s bustling metropolitan areas, & the natural beauty & the people are both incredible to witness. Rice paddies cut into Sapa’s rich greenery cling to the steep valley sides in almost impossible defiance. The surrounding villages who cultivate this land are full of wonderfully happy people whose long-standing traditions & simple lifestyle are truly amazing.

Sapa Valley

The Stunning Valley below Sapa

Sapa is a hub for travelers & the surrounding hill tribes to mingle. The views from the town are awesome,… whenever the clouds roll out of the valley below. But the true draw of Sapa is in exploring the areas around it. Although we could have stayed a month, our time in Sapa was short. We managed two day hikes, visiting the local hill tribes & taking in all the natural beauty.

Rice Terraces in Sapa

Some of the typical rice terraces you’ll pass on the trails

 

SAPA – CAT CAT – LAO CHAI

After a night train from Hanoi the previous night, we headed out after lunch from an afternoon walk through the valley below Sapa. Our first stop was the nearby village of Cat Cat, just a 15-20 minute walk from Sapa. Understandably, being so close to Sapa, Cat Cat was very touristy, with all the local tribes people turning the hand to selling their craft-work to tourists… many of which they don’t actually make themselves, just resell. Just after Cat Cat though, an hour into our walk, the scenery turns into the true life of the Black H’mong. The trail cuts through the rice paddies & simple farms of the tribe, dotted with families working away in the fields.

Black H'mong Working the Rice Field

Black H’mong Working the Rice Field

The trail is quite obvious, but if at any stage you feel a little lost, just ask. The locals are incredibly friendly & happy to help… if they understand! The trail continued down the valley on the left of the river, across the river, looping up & down the rice fields on the right-side of the river. We were heading to Ta Van, but after hearing it was touristy like Cat Cat & the light dwindling we were happy to barter for a xeom in Lao Chai to take us back across the river & up to Sapa for $3 each.

The walk took 4 hours, covering about 7 miles, then a 15 minute ride back to Sapa.

 

SAPA – TA PHIN – MA CHA

The second day we headed out in the morning, this time taking a xeom to the village of Ta Phin. After a 20 minute drive to the village’s entrance we walked down the road into Ta Phin, home of the Red Dzao tribe. Being in the village centre felt like you’d travelled back hundreds of years as the locals sat in groups drinking tea, adorned in their traditional garments.

Red Dzao Tribe Woman

Red Dzao Tribe Woman

We carried on up the trail, winding above the countless rice terraces to Ma Cha. The entire Black H’mong community was gathered in the center for some ceremony, smiling & waving as we wandered through. The main road was just 15 minutes walk further on, & we opted to take another xeom back to Sapa instead of the 3km walk along the road.

After arriving in Ta Phin, the walk took 3.5 hours, covering about 9 miles, then a 10 minute xeom ride back to Sapa.

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