Sa Pa in Vietnam (or Sapa Vietnam) is a different world and a genuine travelers experience. This is a guide on how to get to Sapa and things to do in Sapa such as Trekking. We also include a tons of photos, so you can get a better understanding for what to expect.
We’ve visited the Xi Family in Hau Thao Village, an ethnic minority, living in the North-West mountains of Vietnam, just a stone-throw away from China.
The village counts 1000 inhabitants. Since 2009 the villagers have access to electricity, including TV and a kind of water heating system.
We start this journey in Hanoi, taking the night train to Lao Cai, taking the next bus, and arriving in Sa Pa. We will show you how much you have to pay, how to avoid travel scams in Vietnam and area, and what to expect.
Arriving in Sa Pa is another part of the experience. Many villagers women approach you directly at the bus. As said, you will arrive in Lao Cai and take an extra shuttle bus to Sa Pa Village. The bus itself cost around $2 per person.
Once arrived, open the bus door and you will look into many friendly faces, trying to get your attention.
I wish I would have had my camera ready for that moment.
We met Xi.
As we talked with friends beforehand, we knew $20 is a fair price to pay for the trekking and stay.
In Sapa we got a decent breakfast at one of the snack bars around the main square in Sa Pa. Then we started our 8km trekking, passing an interesting local market. Xi bought some food for her family and she handed us two blue-colored bracelets as a gift.
After the market our hike started for real and we walk-passed cows, chicken, a kindergarten with kids playing.
We stopped as the kids were just into taking photos and looking at them.
After a rough 2 hours hike it was time for the lunch break.
Good food was served and after a short break, the 2nd part of the trekking experience kicked off.2.5 hours of slippery trekking path.
We also met children along the way. They were crazy about the camera and wanted to take endless photos.
The minority village
The village is surrounded by tea plantations.
In our home stay there was the whole family living: the sister of Xi with her 3 kids, her two grandmothers, Xi herself and her 2 kids as well as the husbands.
The house is big while walls are built with wood.
The many holes between the wood let the wind and cold easily stream into the house. The kitchen has one table and plastic chairs, which are only used by guests. Xi and her sister used the open fire to cook incredible meals.
From fries, spring rolls to banana pancakes they mastered the cooking on open fire.
In cold times, the open fire is also the heating system.
The kitchen is a closed room and the smoke from the open fire can only leave through some holes in the roof.
The entire room is smoky and everything smells like smoke.
It is time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase. Make sure you always pick a quality accommodation, it totally reduces the things you need to pack. Here is our ultimate packing list. It features 23 items you should really throw in your backpack.