Sapa, Vietnam, attractions and photos.

Sapa, Vietnam, attractions and photos.

Sapa is a mountainous area, a land of clouds, waterfalls and terraced fields in northwestern Vietnam. The starting point here, as a rule, is Laocai, the capital of the province of the same name, located 340 km from the capital and 40 km southeast of Sapa. Four trains leave daily from Hanoi Station at Le Zuan Street in the direction of Laocay. Three of them leave in the evening (it is better to choose the one that leaves around 11 pm) – in their air-conditioned compartments, the traveler can rest and sleep well (1st class – 30 USD) . The only morning train is much less comfortable: it has only hard seats, and the ticket costs more than the bus fare, which also travels to Laocai from Hanoi train station (10 hours, 60,000 VND) . Night trains arrive in Lao Cai around 5 -6 am. This city of more than half a million people became one of the main targets of the Chinese invasion in February 1979. Artillery shelling and fierce street fighting turned Laocai into ruins. Now you see no trace of the war – the city has long been rebuilt and looks cozy and peaceful. Moreover, there is a border crossing 3 km to the north of it, through which you can enter the territory of the former enemy. There is nothing noteworthy about Laocaye itself.

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History

Content with the fat lands of the coastal plains, the Viets never had any interest in the inaccessible mountains that lie on the border of China’s Yunnan Province. Settled by numerous hill tribes, Sapa was “discovered” by the French in the late 1880s. In 1903, a military post appeared on the site of the future city – the name “Sapa” first appeared on the map drawn up by army surveyors two years earlier.

In 1912, a sanatorium for officers of the Tonkin troops appeared there, and since 1914, government officials used to spend the hot summer months in a cool Sapa. In 1917 the tourist bureau started to operate in Sapa, which laid out the now famous hiking trails in the vicinity. Very quickly, by the early 1920s, the city grew, adorned with hotels and private villas. The French, who took a fancy to the place, called it Chapa, with an accent on the last syllable. Following the tourists from the colonizers, the Vietnamese poured into Sapa to serve their needs.

With the beginning of World War II, the resort quickly fell into decline – at that difficult time, there was no time to rest. The situation worsened in 1947, when the summer capital of French Indochina was first attacked by Vietminh units. Two years later, the colonial troops finally abandoned the city, and in 1952 French aviation subjected Sapa to a “farewell” bombing that destroyed most of the colonial buildings, of which there were by then nearly two hundred. The Vietnamese population of Sapa abandoned the ruined city for a long time. They began to return here only in the late 1960’s. In 1979 Sapa was the extreme point of advance of Chinese troops deep into the Vietnamese territory. In 1993, due to the general changes in the country, the region opened for international tourism. Today, there are 44 hotels of different levels in Sapa and its surroundings.

The local indigenous population consists mainly of members of the small peoples of the mountains. 52% are Hmones, 25% are Zao, 5% are Tai, and 2% are Ziai. The smallest ethnic group in Sapa is the Sapho. The Viets constitute only 15% of the 40,000-strong population of the area. There are 7,000 people in the city itself, all of whom are employed in the tourism industry. Despite the war years and years of devastation, the French presence is still felt in Sapa: the old layout is preserved, some fragments of colonial buildings have survived, and the streets are often seen signs in French Auberge (“hotel”) or Lessive (“laundry”).

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Location and Transport

Sapa is a town with the same name and is located on a small plateau at the foot of Ham Rong Mountain in the Hoang Lien Range system, about 1500 m above sea level. In the center of the city there is a square with a park, a stadium, a marketplace and a small stone church built in 1934.

The town’s busiest streets are Muong Hoa St. and Cau May St. Here are the main market, tourist information center, hotels, and restaurants. In a southeastern direction from the church, Ham Rong Street, where the main post office is located, begins the ascent to the top of the mountain of the same name, which offers amazing views of the city and the surrounding area.

Minibuses depart from Laocai Station for Sapa – the traffic begins when the first Hanoi train arrives and ends around 3 p.m. The fare will cost 30,000 VND. Se om to Sapa will cost about 70,000 VND.

Climate

The coldest time of the year in Sapa is January and February (temperatures mostly range from 5-15 °C, but can drop to 0 °C) . From January to June the dry season continues, and in March the weather is mostly clear and sunny, which lasts until the end of May (air temperatures 15-19 ° C) . At this time on the mountain slopes blooms a variety of flowers.

From June to August with abundant warm rains (air temperature about 20 ° C), and from September the temperature slowly begins to fall. However, it is the autumn months are considered the best to visit Sapa. The period from mid-October to mid-December is the best time for trekking and mountain climbing.

Attractions

The alpha and omega of Sapa is the market. Even without leaving the city, here you can get acquainted with the representatives of all the local peoples, take the best pictures and buy souvenirs. Today, women of Goryan still wear colorful traditional clothing and silver jewelry – this is not done for the benefit of tourists. The Tszao people can be recognized by the red scarves tied around their heads. The Hmong wear mostly black or blue suits decorated with hand embroidery. The characteristic knitted gaiters seen on women’s feet are called la peng pe (la peng pe) . The Sapa market is best visited on Sundays, when villagers from nearby villages come here.

The highest mountain in Vietnam, Fan Si Pan (3,143 meters above sea level) is very close – 19 km from the city. However, the road to its foot is so difficult that even experienced athletes are forced to spend 2 – 3 days to overcome this distance. The lower slopes of Fanshipan are covered with forests, and due to the local peculiarities, the air there is extremely humid. If you climb above 1500m, you will be exposed to cold and cloudy conditions. No special training or equipment (with the exception of an alpenstock, hiking boots, and warm clothing) is required for the ascent.

In clear weather, Fangshipan is clearly visible from Sapa – just like the other peaks of the Hoanglien range. In colonial times, this mountain system was nicknamed the “Tonkin Alps” for a reason. In general, the mountain views are the main thing worth coming to Sapa for. On a clear day, getting up early here, you can witness the amazing play of sunlight on the green slopes. While in Sapa, the French poet Georges Riman, who served in Indochina, wrote in his diary: “The sun appeared at the same level as me, and if the mountain was big, my shadow became infinite. I never thought I was so big. Alas, it only lasted a minute!”

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A pleasant excursion can be made by driving from Sapa to Tambak Falls (Tham Vas, or Silver Falls) and Chamton Pass (Tram Ton) . Cham Ton – the highest pass in Vietnam (1900 m above sea level), it is located 15 km from Sapa, on the northern slope of Phanshipan. This pass is passed on the road to Lai Chau . Although at the highest point of the pass it is cold and foggy, on the slope facing Lai Chau, the sun always shines: the pass is the border between two weather zones. The Herring Falls are located 5 km from the pass towards Sapa – the entrance to the observation deck costs 3000 dong. Se om to the pass with a stop at the waterfall will cost 50 000 – 60 000 VND (round trip takes about an hour).

Trekking

A variety of trekking in the mountains of Vietnam, including in the “Tonkin Alps,” can offer many travel agencies. Professional and reliable in this area are considered Handspan Travel (www.handspan.com) , Topas Travel (www.topas-adventure-vietnam.com) and Active Travel Vietnam (www.activetravelvietnam.com) .

A small day trek can easily be arranged in Sapa. The shortest and easiest hiking route is to walk from Sapa in a southwest direction to Sin Chai through Cat Cat Cat village. Here, there is a well-maintained, well-distinguished trail without complicated ramifications. The distance is about 6 km, and the total time needed for the walk is about 4 to 5 hours. Near Katkat there is a waterfall of the same name.

From Sapa to Ta Van via Lao Chai . The 9 km trek runs in a southeasterly direction through the picturesque Myong Hoa Valley. The duration is about 5 hours and the cost is 10 USD.

From Sapa to Tafin (Ta Phin) via Ma Cha . The end point of the trek is located 10 km north of Sapa. Here on the mountain slopes attached to a few picturesque villages inhabited by black Hmong and Tszao (interesting www.taphin-sapa.info) . Near Tafin there are interesting caves (entrance 36,000 dong) . The journey by car or motorcycle from Sapa takes about half an hour, and the walk will take about 6 hours. The cost of the trek – 15 USD.

Accommodation

Prices for accommodation in Sapa vary quite a lot and depend not only on the season, but also on the day of the week: on weekends, the flow of guests increases due to sightseers from Hanoi and hotels are more expensive. Another thing that affects the cost of the room – the view from the window. Sapa is also unique in that it is the only place in Vietnam, where hotels have heating. In the old establishments are fireplaces and stoves, and in the new – electric heaters.

In Sapa it is difficult to stay without an overnight stay: the city is obsessed with a real construction fever. If you definitely want to stay in an old famous hotel, remember that new “neighbors” have long since grown up around them. They often spoil the views that in the past a particular hotel deservedly took pride in.

Useful Information

Not so long ago it was impossible to find a bank in Sapa, and foreign currency was exchanged only by hotels, not forgetting the exchange rate “margin. Now there is a branch of BIDV bank (Ngu Chi Son St., phone 020-872569, 7.00-11.30/13.30-16.30) equipped with a cash machine.

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If you don’t have much time, an alternative to Sapa is Tam Do, a national park and mountain resort 85 kilometers northeast of Hanoi. From May to October you can take walks of varying lengths through the mountains, replete with rivers, waterfalls and rain forests. Guides, which can be hired at any hotel, will cost about 4 USD. A day trip from Hanoi in a rental car will cost about 50 USD. The road from Hanoi to Tamdo goes past the ancient fortress of Koloa.

You can get to Tamdo from the Ben Xe Kim Ma bus station in Hanoi. Take a regular bus to Vignen (Vinh Yen, 20,000 VND), 60 kilometers from the capital. To get from Vinh Yen to Tam Do, you can take a se om (50,000 VND for 25 km) . Nights in Tamdo can be cold (especially in May and September) – don’t forget a sweater and jacket. Hotels offer rooms from 8 to 80 USD.

Sapa, Vietnam, attractions and photos.

This is one of the tourist spots in Vietnam where people who do not want to lie on the beach come, Sapa was founded in 1910 by the French for leisure activities.

Even then it was clear that the city would become one of the centers of tourism. The city itself is not rich in attractions. In principle, Sapa and its surrounding areas should be considered as attractions. Especially interesting is the market area near the lake. Every year, representatives of local settlements come here to sell their products. As a rule, it is popular only with holidaymakers. Trade takes place on the main market square, but some sellers organize stalls with souvenirs in the streets or small alleys.

There are many small cozy cafes in the city. Although it’s more fun to just walk through the streets of Sapa, check out the stores, and then relax in a cafe while sipping coffee. You can also relax by the pond, swimming on boats in the shape of swans.

Of the famous attractions are the Sapa Museum, Mount Hamrong, and the Catholic Church. But most of the interesting places are around town. There are waterfalls, and rivers, and mountain passes, and finally, the extraordinary nature. Some attractions you can visit on your own, but there are some routes that are best explored with a tour.

Tours of all the local beauties are constantly running from the city. There are so many travel agencies in Sapa that absolutely any of them have the opportunity to buy the tour you like. Even the hotels have a similar service. What is interesting, conducting tours are local residents who have become guides. With such people is always interesting, because they have lived here for many years and know not only all the sights, but also the many legends associated with the surrounding area. It is impossible not to mention that there are excursions that are mandatory to visit with a guide. This is due to the fact that inexperienced tourists are likely to get lost in the jungle, well, or just do not find anything interesting. Tour tours cost from $20 to $40, depending on the number of days spent here.

You can spend the night in tent cities, or with accommodation with local people, which is rare. Also in Sapa there are so-called gesthouses, built just for vacationers. They are also considered homestay accommodation, but with some features. Each room has all the amenities and meals are included in the accommodation.

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Excursions to waterfalls and caves are quite easy, you can visit them on your own. But there are a few tips, following which will help avoid unpleasant incidents.

  1. It is impossible to get into the villages for free. You will have to pay for a ticket of about 40000 dong.
  2. Some places can only be reached by motorcycle. When you get to the right place, you should stop at a hostel. And only after resting, you can comfortably go on a tour of the surrounding areas.
  3. If you are traveling on your own, it is possible to join one of the tourist groups. They always depart from the agency or from the city center.

Sapa Museum

The museum is located on the main square. It is not required during tours. But if you have extra time, then why not visit it. There anyone can learn more about the culture, traditions, and life of the Vietnamese people.

The size of the museum is not impressive. Located in a small beautiful building and is very similar to the Museum of Women. On the first floor you can see several exhibits showing the national clothing of the people inhabiting the neighboring villages. The most interesting part of the collection is on the second floor. There are four rooms with men’s and women’s clothes and household items. It is also worth examining the drums that were used during the rituals. On the walls of the museum, be sure to see old photographs depicting the ordinary life of the people of Sapa. Each exhibit has a plaque with explanations. It is advisable to visit the museum at the beginning of the trip to get a feel for the interior color.

This church is also known as the Catholic Church. According to historical data, the shrine was built in the 20th century. The architect chose the place of erection for a long time, and in the end the choice fell on the heart of the city, where all the roads intersect.

Despite its young age, the building has survived several closures. And once it was used as a granary. Today it is active and even has its own website.

The foot of the mountain is in the central part of the city, not far from the sports field. The mountain itself is so big that it extends far beyond Sap. If you come to Sapa and don’t want to leave the city, this attraction is not for you. But you can explore the fauna and flora at the base of Ham Rong. An entire park with beautiful gardens and waterfalls has been built for tourists on the mountain. At high points are organized viewing platforms. For children installed children’s attractions. At certain times, tourists are delighted with shows with traditional songs and dances. In addition to the mountain peaks, there are deep caves inside Ham Rong.

Walking the Ham Rong is very difficult for unprepared person, because most of the route passes through the many stairs and steps. It would be OK, if they were not looping, then descending, then climbing. Lookout point of the mountain is located at the top, at an altitude of 1800 meters. To see all the sights, it takes at least two hours.

It is a special attraction. The market got its name for a reason. Once upon a time men came here in search of their mate. Girls danced for them, sang songs and thus found their soulmates. If a man and a woman liked each other, they stayed together for a few days and then got married. That’s how the love market came about.

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In our time on the theme of the legend are organized whole theatrical performances, which is very popular with tourists. They are held every Saturday night. Before visiting take a little extra money to tip the girls who will sing. After all, they’re not doing it for the grooms, but for you.

Market is called the whole center of the city. They sell absolutely everything here. It can be groceries, fast food and more. The most useful is probably the sale of camping equipment, shoes, clothing and tools. You can also see numerous shops with local handicrafts and exotic food, which is not a sight for the faint-hearted.

In the heart of Sapa is located lake of the same name. Its only entertainment will be long walks around during the day, or better in the evening. Unfortunately, you will not see anything else interesting on it.

Thak Bak is located 10 kilometers from the city. Its height is 100 meters, which makes it the largest waterfall in Sapa. In the dry season there is no point in coming here, as some of its parts dry up and it is a pathetic sight. But during the rainy season, the waterfall completely makes up for its pity during the dry season.

Near this attraction have created infrastructure: a market and a small cafe with national food. To get to the very top you can use a special staircase, on the whole length of which there are pavilions. At the top there is an observation deck with a marvelous view of the surrounding scenery.

The only downside will be that when approaching the waterfall, the locals will persistently call to stop at the paid parking lot. You do not have to agree, you can just drive a little ahead and leave your vehicle near the entrance. There is no reason to be afraid that it will be stolen, as from the observation deck you can see even the motorcycle or car you arrived in.

The pass is two kilometers high. It is the largest mountain formation in Vietnam. It offers a magnificent view, but it is not often seen, because the pass is enveloped by fog. The climate here also has its own characteristics, since the pass is located at the junction of two climatic zones. On one side you are in the cold zone and on the other side you are in the hot zone.

Needless to say, there is a small market with local food and souvenirs near Tram Ton.

The village of Cat Cat is the closest to Sapu. Call it a village can not be, as on the territory of Cat Cat Cat is a real attraction with a paid entrance. However, it is very interesting and educational. In addition to the local scenery, the village has its own waterfall and a small collection of ancient objects of life of the Vietnamese. To come here, do not necessarily buy a guided tour. You can come on your own, pay the entrance fee and travel around the territory of Cat Cat.

This is another national village, located a few kilometers from Sapa. Unique Ta Fin with its tribes who live in friendship for many years. They are very fond of tourists and often offer to stay in their homes. In return, people expect you to buy something of their products. It is also possible to buy a hotel room.

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