There are not only beaches and beautiful bays in Vietnam: if you travel to the north-west from Hanoi, you can get to mountains. Lao Cai province with Hoang Lien Son mountain range and Indochina’s highest peak Fansipan is located 350 km away from Hanoi. The city of Sapa (or Sa Pa) is one of the popular tourist destinations in the region. It’s convenient to explore the beautiful surroundings with mountains and rice terraces from there. In this post we will tell about Sapa, and in the next ones we will tell more about the surroundings.
We came to Sapa from Hanoi by train — it leaves in the evening and arrives to Lao Cai around 5 am. From Lao Cai you can get to Sapa on a bus in about an hour.
You can buy the train tickets in one of the tourist offices in Hanoi or directly at the train station — it is much cheaper that way. Although you can’t buy tickets to tourist coaches (such as Livitrans) at the station.
We are not very lucky with the weather in Vietnam: we had to leave Halong Bay early because of the storm, and it was raining every day when we were in Sapa. It was also foggy; although it wasn’t really just fog, we were literally walking in clouds. It was pretty cold — around 15 degrees, although November and December are considered one of the best times to visit Sapa. But sometimes the clouds were blown away and we could see the beautiful landscape around. We also saw it when we explored the area on motorbikes and climbed higher than Sapa and the clouds.
Sapa looks a lot like some small village in the Alps — if you ignore the tropical plants, of course. But the mountains, the rain and the fog that remind of melting snow, small restaurants (many of them French) and some signs of colonial past make Sapa look like a village in Switzerland. A catholic church with a big square in front of it is located in the centre of Sapa.
And this is how the church looks when the clouds cover the city.
Several streets with restaurants and shop are located around the square.
You can look at us for a change: Andrei, Natasha and her mother Tatiana that came to visit us.
There is also a beautiful lake in the center of Sapa.
Local people are an important part of the city’s charm. Many ethnic minorities live in this region. They are mainly farmers, that’s why the landscape is filled with beautiful rice terraces. But since the tourists started coming to Sapa, local women started selling their goods (like purses and scarfs). They also offer tourists to guide them to local villages, and sometimes it can be a little annoying — but you get used to it. You can take a walk with them for a few dollars, but it’s easy to get anywhere you want by yourself by walking or on a motorbike.
Walking in a cloud feels surrealistic — you can’t see anything just a few meters away.
In the evening and in the night everything looks even more unrealistic.
The constant humidity and water makes everything look beautiful and unusual.
The thicker the fog, the more you value every hint of the sun.
In the next posts we will show the beautiful surroundings of Sapa.