Vietnam Part 6: Sa Pa

On the road from Hanoi to Sa Pa we enjoyed the stunning landscape. Small, green hills became tall mountains and more and more rice terraces appeared the closer we got to Sa Pa. The region is not only known for its rice paddies, but also for hiking trips through the mountainous scenery and the various villages where ethnic minorities live in.

The town lies high in the mountains. Fog, clouds, and wind can show up anytime and even last for a few days, just like it happened during our trip. When we arrived, whole Sa Pa was emerged in dense fog that hold on to the province until our very last day up high in the North.

It’s a popular place amongst tourists, like any of the hot spots you can visit from Hanoi. In fact, it’s basically impossible to walk through the Old Quarter of Hanoi without coming along banners and posters of the hiker’s paradise that is supposed to be Sa Pa. We were glad our first homestay in the Lao Cai Province was far off the loud and busy core of town. The “Joy House” lies a forty-five minute taxi drive east of Sa Pa Town. It’s probably easier and faster once the roadworks are finished. During our journey, there was no road. Only dirt, flooded paths and lots of loose stones on the ground that made us feel sorry for the taxi driver and his car. It’s not uncommon for cars and mini buses to get stuck or seriously damaged. The ride cost us 250.000 VND (9,40€) and a visitor fee of 75.000 VND (2,80€) per person to access the villages.

Dense clouds and fog hanging between the mountains when we arrived in Sa Pa

The homestay was quite nice. The basic wooden houses were clean and comfy and the view at the surrounding mountains and rice fields was spectacular. Indeed, the “Joy House” was child-friendly, as described online. But they didn’t mention that it was the village’s kindergarten. At least it seemed so, with all the children running around, shouting and playing. They also tried to sell us selfmade goods. Even as we left to explore the neighborhood, a bunch followed us with their handcrafted items. We were impressed by their tenacity.

The waterfall that was visible from the homestay was not as extraordinary as we hoped, so we quickly left it behind and continued the trails up the hills. Besides hiking, there’s not much to do in this remote area and already after a few hours, we’d felt as if we’d seen every trail. That’s why we decided in the evening to stay in the town of Sapa the following day and explore the western routes with a scooter.

On our hike around the "Joy House" we met several animals: dogs, pigs, chicken, and impressive water buffelos

Nevertheless, our short trip to the village was found to be worthwile. On our morning hike through the bamboo forest to a photogenic spot in the rice terraces we met a dog who played our personal guide. He walked in front of us, regularly turning around to see if we followed and even waited for us when we had a photo break. All in all he escorted us about two kilometers out of the village and back.

After the trip we enjoyed some vegan pancakes with fruits which our host prepared for us for breakfast.

Breakfast with a view: our host made some vegan pancakes for us

During our stay we met an elderly Australian couple who had booked an organised holiday in Vietnam. As fascinated as they were at first by the water buffalo in the garden and the children bringing them flowers, they seemed to be bored after a day. Their travel agency sent a van to pick them up and we took the chance to join them. Unfortunately, we had to wait for a long time near the road, due to a communication error the driver had been waiting at the wrong spot.

In the town we left a tip for the driver, said goodbye to our fellow travellers and were ready for the next part of Sa Pa.

The small village near Sa Pa town - a small path leads to the "Joy House"

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