Sapa is a must-visit destination for those who have a great desire to explore the unique beauty of ethnic mountainous lifestyle in northern Vietnam. Visitors will instantly fall in love with spectacular landscapes as well as a climb to the peak of Phan Xi Păng, or Fansipan, the “rooftop of Indochina.” Yet, the most fascinating and memorable activity is a visit to hill-tribe markets and interacting with hospitable locals.
To discover the sights and sounds of Sapa, rent a motorbike to get around (approximately 80,000 VND), or a car if you’re traveling as a small group. That’s because some attractions are far away from each other and scattered around the town. Don’t forget comfortable shoes for exploring and have a high-quality camera on hand to photograph daily life. In addition, an umbrella or a hat will also come in handy for protection from the sun.
The following are some of our favorite activities during a trip to Sapa, and we hope that you’ll find them inspirational for your trip.
In the morning – Bac Ha Hill-Tribe Market
A trip to Sapa won’t be complete without a visit to any of the hill-tribe markets. Each market has its own specialty and charm, with some easier to reach than others. For me, this was truly a perfect place to understand more about the activities and life of the ethnic minority groups that live here: the H’mong.
We decided to visit Bac Ha Market as our first destination, which is about 76 kilometers from Lao Cai City. There’s a specially large population of Flower H’mong who live here, too. Known as the Sunday morning market, Bac Ha Market also stands out as the largest and most lively in the area. We arrived in the early morning to not only avoid the crowds of tourists, but to also see the market in full swing.
You can find everything Bac Ha Market, from souvenirs and trinkets to traditional clothing and H’mong dress. The most attractive feature that won my heart at first sight was the buffalo market, which was a new and odd experience for me and my friend. We watched several wallowing water buffaloes and their calves, while a few sellers tried to bargain for the best choice.
At midday – Ban Pho Village
We continued our journey to Ban Pho Village, which is located 30 minutes by car from Bac Ha Market. This village is famous for its traditional corn wine (rượu ngô). In addition, foodies should also try tasty thắng cố. This specialty of the H’mong, it’s prepared with corn wine, spices, and stewed meat from either ox, horse, pig, or buffalo.
We were lucky enough to be invited to lunch at the home an H’mong family, who were very sincere, hospitable, and enthusiastic about our visit. We had an opportunity to watch them cooking corn wine and sample it, too. After our meal, one family member guided us through the village, which also allowed us to see how the corn was treated, dried, sorted, stored, and brewed to make to the wine. It was truly an educational adventure that left a lasting memory on us.
In the afternoon – Ham Rong Mountain
For some adventure, we didn’t skip the chance to climb Ham Rong Mountain. On the hike to conquer Cloud Yard (Sân Mây)—the summit of Ham Rong—we came upon the natural beauty of orchid gardens, peach groves, and fields of flowers. As we stood at the mountain peak, we cast our vision towards the stunning landscape that surrounded us and admired the most poetic beauty of Sapa shrouded in clouds.
At the end of the day, we returned to our hotel after a long day of discovering what Sapa has to offer. If you’re thinking of visiting Sapa on your next trip to Vietnam, spend at least one night and two days in Sapa to see the beautiful spots mentioned above. On the whole, I hope to return and explore this charming town again in the near future. Author’s bio: Linh Viet is passionate about travel and writing. She works as a guide and writer for Viet Fun Travel.
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