Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa, Vietnam

Boarded two buses from Sapa heading toward Hue with a pit stop in Hanoi, the journey is almost 25 hours total.  Sapa is a beautiful town filled with enormous culture. Four tribes, four different languages, one thing in common, all of them meet in Sapa to introduce their culture, food, traditions, and way of life to the tourists.  Consequently, the tribes suffer from tourism to find a balance between old traditions and modern life. Speaking to a native born in Sapa, she mentioned that tourism is taking away their cultural identities.  Their own dialects are becoming extinct, trying to learn English, Spanish, and French to sell their products or tour their villages for a living.  On the other hand, their handcrafted dresses for both women and children, pillow cases, purses and other goods are gorgeous. One caveat of the tribal people are the tribal women when walking through town.  The moment you stand still, this becomes their moment to swoop in and speak to you.  They strategize their sales tactics with shopping and hiking. Responding no courteously knowing they want to sell something, now they begin a casual conversation. Evading several times, they stay persistent and follow for several minutes and up to several yards.  Working passed the tribal women, walking is the best way to get from opposite sides of the town because of the road structure.

Peak of Ham Rong Mountain

Plenty of attractions are found in and around town such as the Mường Hoa Valley, Fanispan Mountain, rice terraces, and Ham Rong Mountain.  Upon our arrival in late December midst monsoon season, Sapa was cloudy, rainy, and jacket weather cold. But the cloudy and rainy environment brought a mysticism to Sapa.  Floating mountainous islands in the sky are unforgettable moments. 

Trails of Ham Rong Mountain

While waiting for days for the clouds to clear, we drew our attention towards the rice terraces than Fanispan Mountain.  Though the mountains were lushly green, the paddy fields beautifully stacked and brown. Onward, we paid 70,000 dong a person and trekked up Ham Rong Mountain. While hiking up the mountain, we noticed the cable car operating to the top of Fanispan Mountain.  To watch the gondola lift, haul itself up the mountain and disappear into the clouds would be a bust to peak Fanispan. 

Trúc Lâm Đại Giác Zen Monastery

Travelling during monsoon season presents its challenges. Sapa presents its beauty even during monsoon season only through preparation.  As prepared as you are, the main attractions may not be ready for you because of renovations or under construction.  Wear the right shoes in December and possibly January is a must, otherwise water will soak through your shoes and sometimes sink into the soil. Overall, we had a pleasant experience with the short hike up Ham Rong Mountain and the cloudiness of Sapa.

– Walter

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