Sapa was a side trip I took from Hanoi and it was indeed one of the amazing experience I had. Here is a quick run down of my entire journey. I flew into Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi) from Bangkok and arrived late in the evening. My travels plan are always on a budget so I would avoid taking the cab. Most travellers would have taken the cab into the city but I decided to look for the airport shuttle which cost around VND 40,000 (if I remember correctly).
I do not usually book my hostel in advance so the idea is to drop off at the city centre, in this case in the old quarters before I go on searching for hostels. Hanoi is the second biggest city in Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh in case you are wondering. Once I arrived, I found this pretty cool hostel nearby called the Central Backpackers Hostel which is an amazing hostel if you love to party. In fact, most hostel in Hanoi is sort of a party hostel.
Journey to Lao Cai
I explored the streets of Hanoi for a day or two and decided to go Sapa on my third day. I was trying to figure out a way to go there myself but I figure that it would be convenient to have everything pre-arranged. Thus, I booked a tour through my hostel which cost USD75 for 3 days 2 night inclusive of accommodations, food and transport. Sound like a good deal but read on, I will reveal why I regret booking a tour here later at the end of this post.
The bus departs around 9 pm and they will pick you up from your hostel. The overnight bus took 7 to 8 hours if I remember correctly and I was sleeping soundly the entire journey. The bus will stop at the bus station (Lao Cai) early in the morning in which you need to wait for someone to pick you up to a hotel. Which you will then be assigned to your tour guide. In case you are wondering, Lao Cai is the base of you will be gathering before trekking Sapa.
I met up with others from our team. There are 13 of us in total and we began trekking. The view is magnificent and believe it or not, it will only get better.
Day 1: Trek to Ta Van Village
So we started our journey from the hotel and began trekking. Though there are 13 of us but I was trekking with another 3 travellers I met from the United Kingdom, France and Korea. It was a long trek which I think was approximately 10 km.
Though it was a long journey, the entire journey does not feel that tiring. But why? With such a magnificent view, everything is worth it. Those are things you would not be able to experience in the city.
Halfway through the journey, we stopped over for a quick meal before continuing our trek to Ta Van Village. It was another 3 to 4 hours of trekking away before we arrived at our homestay. The place we stayed for the night is a local’s home in which we stayed at the second floor with mattresses and mosquitoes nets.
It was a free and easy time for you to explore the place. You can even head down to the river for a quick dip but we were too tired that we just lay down chit chatting. I particularly love the night time over here in Sapa. There is no better feeling that being around nature. We spent the night eating local food prepared by the host, laughing and getting to know the other 13 other travellers.
We spent the night eating local food prepared by the host, laughing and getting to know the other 13 other travellers. Here’s one thing we tried and you would most probably do so too. We were given ‘happy water’. I do not know what it contains but most of the other travellers said it taste like a mix of tequila and vodka. And it gets you tipsy very quickly.
Day 2: Trek to Ban Ho Village
On the first day of my trek, I have 13 people trekking along with me but they only planned to stay for a night. So on the second day, I was trekking all alone with another guide and a local. It was an all different experience for me and I absolutely love it. The trek on the first day was a good time to meet other travellers and the second day was a good time to enjoy the local’s lifestyle.
The trek is almost similar where you till get the same spectacular view. Nothing extra fancy but the place I am staying at makes the entire experience memorable. As I was alone, I ate with the families (7 of them in total) and it was a warm feeling seeing how they interact. I spent the night talking to the guide and the local who accompanied me.
I love our conversation as this is where I get to know so much about their cultures here. Do you know the locals thinks that you are too old if you get married at 21 so most of the girls get married pretty young? As young as 15 years old.
Day 3: Village Cultural Experience, trip to the waterfall and back to Hanoi
The next morning was my most memorable day here. Apparently, that particular day was a special day for the villagers in which they were making an offering. So lots of other villagers gather at my host’s place in which I joined along. More of watching along.
They started of cooking and making bread, not just any bread but their local bread. They had like 7 to 8 people making the dough with a huge stick and later put in the filling for the bread. Tasted pretty good too.
Now here comes the part where you probably would not like it, especially those who are vegans. It was an offering so the villagers brought a pig and a chicken from the farm and slaughtered them alive. I can vividly remember how the pig was crying and struggling. The sight of it was so saddening that I decided to not watch. I was kind of disgusted by it. But to think of it, we are all meat eaters and this happens every day. The only difference is that we do not physically sight the slaughtering of the animals.
Here’s another unrelated sighting I witness while trekking in Sapa. You may want to turn a way if you are a dog lover.
Before leaving the village, the locals brought me to a waterfall which is located nearby. That was honestly the most tranquil and cooling place I have been that I ended up staying there for an hour.
Takeaway from this trip and pointers to you
That is pretty much my entire experience on trekking Sapa. If you are travelling in Hanoi, my advice is to never skip Sapa as that would probably be one of the highlights of your trip. Here is a quick takeaway and tips if you are going there next.
Tours can be pretty expensive- I thought I had a great deal paying USD75 for 3 days 2 nights tour trekking Sapa as I had friends paying more than that. While I do not know what is the cheapest way to do so, I know that USD75 is pretty expensive. I found out that taking a bus there without the tour will only cost USD10 each way from Hanoi to Sapa and vice versa which only adds up to USD20 in total. Generally, tour booking when you arrived in Sapa would be cheaper as there is lesser commission fee involved. But that is just an assumption. I talked to the local guide and she told me that they were only paid USD5 per day so you can roughly gauge the pricing.
Staying 3 days is not necessary– Staying 3 days is not necessary if you are just there to trek Sapa. You would trek around Sapa with the same view for the entire 3 days so it gets pretty boring. But if your goal is to relax and be around nature, then 3 days would be perfect.
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