Welcome to Sa Pa! I was really excited for this village upon learning about it ages ago. Sa Pa is in the Lao Cai province which is just a touch south of China and a bit east of Laos, way up in the mountains. Its a town mostly comprised of ethnic minorities. We learned that while there are over a dozen tribes with their own customs and culture – they all learn Vietnamese in school. So they can still communicate to each other and the rest of Vietnam.
So Sa Pa! This was quite the adventure. The tour to Sa Pa includes a sleeper bus ride that leaves Hanoi at 9pm. If you’re wondering what a sleeper bus is – think of the third Harry Potter movie when Harry is stranded and the Knight Bus shows up and takes him to Diagon Alley. HA ha ha. Similar but different driver. Kidding but I think Jimmy and I felt just as confused as Harry did upon boarding. The bus is split into three rows each row with two bunks. Fun! We were the last people on the bus – which means top bunk! Remember when you never had a bunk bed, but if you did you’d definitely shotty the top bunk?? That changes when its moving. Anyways – it actually wasn’t too bad! I was pretty tired by the time we got on the bus. So I fell asleep pretty quick. Sleep wasn’t great – I probably woke up every 15 minutes but after 6ish hours we eventually got to Sapa. We got there a bit after 3am. Unfortunately Jimmy wasn’t listening when the tour guide explained to us that we would STAY on the bus until 6am and then be allowed off. Poor guy – expected to go up to our hotel room…
So after our 2nd nap (which was worse for me – I preferred the swerving bus ride in the dark up the mountains to the extremely exhausted driver who completely passed out and snores very very loud). I won’t complain too much – he did get us there safely 🙂
We headed into a hotel to wash up and have breakfast. Our 14km trek would start at 8am! Yep. No sleep and then a 14km trek through valleys and rice fields! Lets just say I ate 2 bananas in preparation and I hate bananas. During breakfast we got to meet the rest of our group. There were 7 of us and we all got on so well! This added so much to the trip. Literally made the 14km trek feel almost too short. It’s easy to lose track of time when you talk to interesting people from all over the world.
The trek was so amazing! Lots of ups and downs but having been in the Rocky Mountains a few weeks ago I wasn’t too out of shape. Scenery like I’ve never seen before. Throughout our trek we found lots of interesting plants – including indigo (what denim is dyed with), marijuana (oooo!!) and an entire patch filled with four-leaf clovers!!!!!! Lucky us!
Eventually we stopped in one of the villages to have lunch. During lunch we also got to do some shopping! lol. Many of the natives follow tourists on the trek in hopes of selling hand made goods. Stuff like bracelets, change pouches, purses etc. I eventually got roped into buying a little instrument.
Eventually we made it to our local homestay. Local villagers that accommodates tourists. We had some time before dinner so we headed into the village to have a couple beers with our group. I remember getting bit by mosquitos and I also remember that this was the first time I felt cold in Vietnam lol. I think it might have also been the last time I felt cold until I got back to Canada.
Dinner was great! Home cooked meals always win. That night we slept upstairs. There are about 10 beds each with their own mosquito net and an incredibly thick blanket. Since we all barely slept on the sleeper bus – I think we all pretty much passed out. I’m almost embarrassed to say what time we hit the sack but you’d do the same I’m positive.
The next morning we had two options – to continue the trek and go another 10km further and stay at another homestay. Or head back to the hotel we had breakfast and stay there the night. We went with the latter option. And I am SO GLAD. It pretty much rained the entire 3rd day so trekking back in that would’ve been awful. We got back to Sapa after lunch and headed up to Fansipan. The highest peak in the north! We took a gondola up 90% of the way and walked up the rest of the way. It was raining quite a bit but because I stumbled upon the patch of 4 leaf clovers – when we got to the summit the clouds cleared and the rain stopped for about 5 minutes and we got a great view.
That night we hung out in our new friends hotel room – watched Netflix and chilled!
The next morning we did another local walk to a little village within Sa Pa called Cat Cat village. It was raining most of the time so it was hard to fully appreciate it. Also it seemed like this village is a little more geared towards selling goods to tourists. It was still nice to see a different side of Sa Pa beyond rice fields and rolling valleys.