Sapa is a town in the north west of Vietnam, and probably the most beautiful place I have been to in my life. It is predominately incredible highlands, epic mountains, and stunning scenery. My brother had told me to make sure that I went to Sapa whilst on my travels, and on arrival I could see why!
Like the majority of other tourists who visit Sapa, booking a trek and mountain tour was at the top of our priorities. We were picked up from our hostel in the early morning and driven to the point of the mountains where our trek would start. I was excited not only because I love hiking, but when we packed for Vietnam I had brought a pair of boots that I was yet to wear, and this was the perfect opportunity!
Our tour guide was a lovely Vietnamese woman who made us feel more than welcome with all the locals. She taught us lots about the history of Sapa whilst we hiked through a number of hill tribe villages, rice terraces and bamboo rainforests. Seeing the homes and gardens of the hill tribe minorities was a tremendous culture shock to us. Their way of living in the mountains is so different to what we are used to.
On our hike we were joined by around five local women carrying baskets and wearing handmade clothing. They were very friendly, and constantly asked us “are you ok?”, ” do you need help?”. Whilst they were being extremely polite to us, we were warned prior that if we accepted their help it would be implying that we are going to give them money. For me this wasn’t a problem, they were polite and giving them the change I had on me would mean much more to them than it would to me.
We were taken to a local family’s home for lunch. They served us a delicious Vietnamese dish of rice and vegetables (it will of had another name but this is pretty much the English translation). Afterwards they gave us each a small glass of rice wine, a home distilled Vietnamese alcoholic drink. It tasted very similar to vodka, and I guess after a few more it would probably have had the same effects too. The eldest lady in the family told us they make it especially for celebrations, weddings, birthdays etc. The initial taste blew my head off, but I tried not to look like I was struggling too much as I didn’t want to seem rude.
The sights we saw throughout the day were phenomenal and like nothing I had seen before. The higher we walked, the better opportunities to admire the green valleys, waterfalls, and countless rice terraces.
The day after our feet were well and truly defeated so we decided to hire a motorbike to see the rest of what we missed yesterday. We drove into one of the local hill tribe villages to explore and see what the locals got up to. Children were playing outside and the men were working hard on their land. After admiring the villagers overall way of living we realised we had ran out of water, so we went into a local home stay to grab a couple of bottles. We got talking to the owner who told us he would give us free water if in exchange we would write a sign for him in English. It was to advertise his home stay to tourists like us who pass through his village. Apparently the amount of backpackers coming to visit Sapa has increased greatly in the past few years and he wanted to welcome them into his village. He and his family had built the home stay with their bare hands and it really was beautiful. It had a peaceful stream flowing through the garden, cosy bedrooms, gorgeous greenery, trees, plants and an ideal location. They had built it predominately out of bamboo and really wanted it to be a success.
Ideally I would have liked to have stayed in Sapa a lot longer than just a couple of days, but we only had a limited amount of time left in Vietnam and we had lots to squeeze in.