The famed lake city hill station of Vietnam. It will be absolutely impossible if you were in Hanoi and have said no to it even when you had time. Everyone pushes for a tour to Sapa in Hanoi. And it is worthwhile to go to. Expect ~10 degree cooler temperature here from Hanoi in summers. It will be advisable to leave atleast a day free to explore and enjoy the town after or before trek.
Sapa is the home of Hmong tribes, minority in Vietnam. Apart from beautiful step paddy fields, another highlight of this region is the ability of small kids and women to speak almost impeccable English without any formal training. They say that they learn by interacting and speaking with tourists. They start with broken English but catch up with practice. This is an astounding achievement. Many of us cant speak fluent new language with formal training either!
Points of Interest:
Sapa is a small hilly town which can be explored and covered in couple of hours seeing the area and visiting the museum. However, the key is to walk and enjoy the beautiful weather. Apart from the town center which acts as aerobic and acrobatic center for kids, you can walk on the lower ridge for restaurants.
Behind the town center, is a magnificent night light lake and major tourist attraction of town. It is a large water body surrounded by houses and shops. This place is a must visit after dark when it is beautifully light to attract crowd.
This is the main purpose of coming to Sapa. Typically three days of trek is bundled in a tour with one night of home stay in hills. Trek is the wonderful way and only way to explore the natural beauty of paddy fields of Vietnamese hills. If you are not great fan of trekking then half day trek to Cat Cat village and its surrounding should be sufficient enabling you to see the step paddy field scenery associated with Sapa. These treks are not high on difficulty but you will be walking on relatively gradual inclining land for 5 – 7 hours. For serious trekking, day trek to Fansipan or one / two night stay treks are also available. Duration of the trek can be chosen basis your fitness. Day trek to Fansipan is for fitness freak / professional trekkers.
Staying in Sapa:
There are plenty of hotels around the town center and on the lower side of the town where windows of rooms open to magnificent views. Hostels do exist but can be limited in number during high season. And luxury hotels also might be missing but mid tier do exist.
Food and Eating:
There are number of options available to eat. Street market exists but is not as big as in other places.
Moving around in Sapa:
Sapa is small enough to be explored on foot. However, taxies do run to ferry you around.
You can come by either 6hr bus journey or by 9hr train journey. Train will reach till Lao Cai station from where you will have to take a shuttle for under $3 for 38km journey.
What to bring:
Proper clothes for summers as it is cool even during day time. And warm clothes during winters. For trekking, sturdy shoes are necessary. Else you have to be extra careful with your stepping.