Sapa, Vietnam

ETA: I added one more picture at the bottom of this post 🙂

Sapa is probably one of my favourite places that we’ve visited thus far. It’s a nine hour overnight train ride that leaves you in Lao Cai at 5:30am, then it’s an hour’s drive along windy roads to the town of Sapa. Boy oh boy, was it worth it!

We did Sapa on our own. Hanoi is full of travel agencies that are willing to take tourists up to Sapa, but it was much cheaper (and quite easy) to get up there on our own.

Sapa - Cloudy View from AubergeThe first morning, when we arrived, it was very cloudy.
This is the view from our hotel room.

Before we left for Sapa we had been told to be aware that the place was very touristy, most people we spoke to did not like the city, though we were told that the views were amazing. Upon arriving in Sapa we were surrounded by Hmong women all wanting us to “Buy from me!” We instead made our way to the Auberge Hotel and found ourselves a room. It was a bit beyond our budget, but we were tired from our uneasy night’s sleep on the train and had walked up five long flights of stairs with our big pack.

Now, I check out the rooms while Jeff stays down at the reception with our bags.

Sapa - Sunny View from AubergeWaking up on our second morning in Sapa, we were
graced with much better weather, turning our view
from dreary to spectacular.

Sapa is one of the two main highlights that people visit when they are in northern Vietnam. It’s close to the Chinese border and is home to numerous ethnic minority people who were gradually pushed off the flat land further south, and into the mountains. These people ended up building terraces in the mountains to grow rice.

Sapa - Hmong Waiting PatientlyThe Hmong women would wait very patiently outside the
hotels in hordes, just waiting to pounce on the tourists as
soon as they left they left the safety of their hotel!

We spent our first day in Sapa exploring by ourselves. We made our way to Cat Cat village in the pouring rain and had our first encounters with the Hmong people. There were three women who followed us most of the way, all imploring that we buy something from them. Much to the dismay of the women walking with us we came away empty-handed.

Sapa - Trekking with the HordesOur second day of hiking we were joined by
an entourage of five Hmong girls, one of
whom was our guide.

The next day we took an organized tour. Our guide was a lovely 19 year old Hmong girl, Aye (I’m not sure how she spells it). We spent the day walking to her village. I spent most of the trek with her, asking questions and getting to know her. The rest of the tourists in Sapa also made the trek to Lao Chai (different from Lao Cai, where the train station is) village with their respective entourages. It was pretty funny to see hordes of people all walking the same direction. Despite this, the views were amazing and kind of made you forget that there were so many people around.

Sapa - Hmong Women and Their BasketsOur entourage had their baskets full of goods to sell us
once we made it to our destination.

The views were amazing. There will be more pictures to come in the next post, I promise! (Our next post will hopefully come a lot sooner too…. We’ve been having issues with the internet recently!)

Sapa - Jen with our GuideYou can see the beauty of the Hmong clothing
in this photo.

One of the things that I found most fascinating was the clothing of the Hmong people. The women wore clothing made from hemp that was dyed using the indigo plant. They then embroidered their outfits. They were truly beautiful. I ended up buying one to bring home. I hope to be able to share it with my class once I get a teaching job!

Sapa - Young Hmong With BabyThese kids were hanging out at one of
the shops, hoping that we’d buy bracelets or
something from them.

Sapa - Elder Hmong WomanHmong woman taking a break before trekking
down to Lao Chai.

Sapa - Jen and Jeff with Terraced Rice PaddiesThe clouds cleared our second day and we had
beautiful views of the whole valley.

Sapa - Jen with Hmong GirlsGoofing around. Eye had a beautiful soul.

Sapa - Hmong Girls with the Terraced Rice PaddiesYou can see a few of the other tourists in this photo. We
sat for about 20 minutes here just enjoying the view.


Sapa - Hmong with Their Umbrellas Taking Care of a BabyHmong women get married around 15 or 16 years old
which means they have their babies early.

One of the things that I found the most fun during my time in Sapa was buying things from the Hmong women. I walked up to the side of the road to look at some of the indigo-dyed blankets. As soon as I made a move in their direction, the owners of these blankets surrounded me, holding up their wares, hoping that I would “Buy from me!”I caused such a commotion that other tourists came over to take pictures.

Sapa - Jen Buying a BlanketLooking to buy a blanket, I was completely surrounded.

We ended up meeting up with some friends we made in Hanoi because they recognized me in the middle of all this commotion. At one point I think I was holding the ends of about six blankets, surrounded by women who were trying to show me their “best” blanket. I spent a good half hour looking at these blankets, and laughing with these women before I decided on one to take home.

Sapa - Jen buying a baby...After buying my traditional clothes, the women
wanted me to buy a skirt to match my new outfit.
I wanted to buy the baby!

I know that a lot of people who head up to Sapa dislike the constant harassment from the local population, but I found that a good attitude and a smile got me pretty far and made it all more bearable. In fact, it was down right enjoyable!

ps.  (from Jeff):  You’ll note that in all these photos, you’ll only ever see women trekking with the tourists and selling their wares.  Among the Hmong, it is the men who stay back and take care of the home.  We did not, even once, encounter a single exception to this rule.  It is the women who go out and work.

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~ by dawseng on August 7, 2009.

21 Responses to “Sapa, Vietnam”

  1. As usual, some absolutely beautiful photos! You’re first two pictures and the weather pattern associated with them remind me when I was in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland with friends. The exact same happened to us. Waking up to the view Alps was breath-taking. As much as I enjoy the landscape photos, I think I enjoy the pictures with people the most. Both of you have a way of capturing “moments” (for lack of a better word).

    Interesting that you never encountered an exception to the rule of men staying home while the women go out and work.

  2. Hey Jen and Jeff- see all the stuff those Hmong women are carrying? I’m moving to Sapa!

    • You are unbelievable… You’d definitely be a sight to see there. Did you notice, all the women are the same height (or shorter) as/than me!?!?

  3. So size is no excuse.

    Seriously, though, there’s no point in me going there; Clint Eastwood already taught the Hmong the true meaning of manliness.

  4. It’s interesting. Even I am a Vietnamese, I have never been in Sapa.
    About people imploring you to buy something, I think it’s everywhere in Vietnam. Even in big city like Ho Chi Minh city, if you go to the downtown where there are many foreigners, you will be in the same situation.
    Anyway, there are many other nice places in Vietnam. You can be disturbed by people trying to sell you something but on the positive side, they are friendly and love peace.
    Hope you will come back 🙂

    • We definitely found the people of Vietnam to be very friendly and full of love and peace. We ended up spending most of our time in Vietnam, and I still have the urge to go back and see more of what we missed!

  5. Wow is all I can say!! I’m so happy that you made it to Sapa!

  6. he that tuyet khi co 1 n’ nc’ ngoai biet sapa

  7. minh n’ viet nam

  8. Really lovely article and photographs! Check out our blog too, you might be interested in our guides 🙂

  9. very nice place. i can just sit there for hours and take in the scenery.

  10. Took my in-laws there last Dec, we took a bike ride along all the passes and went around all the hills. Amazing view … very cold though. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • It wasn’t too cold when we were there, but we were in northern Thailand last December and it was really cold there. I’d imagine that Sapa experiences similar temperatures around that time of year.

  11. Wow…I’m incredibly jealous. Expecially reading this post while stuck in four walls at work. I have a really bad case of the travel bug. Those amazing photos only make it worse. 🙂

    • Something to look forward to! We spent nearly three weeks there and could have spent more. Many of our friends have also said that Vietnam was one of their favourite places too. I guess being unemployed does have its perks… at least until the money runs out!

      Booked your ticket yet? =)

      -jeff

      • I haven’t made plans to visit Vietname yet. But I booked ticket for Istanbul yesterday. I’ll be leaving early September. I cannot wait!

      • Cool. Istanbul sounds exciting too and that should provide a nice break from your four walls. Two of our friends have recently been there and they loved it.

        -jeff

  12. […] There is much of God’s beauty… 2009 August 11 by aborrowedlight There is mega much of God’s beauty in the world.  Here is more.  Take a look at these awesome pictures of Vietnam […]

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