22 Jan 2017 Sapa Vietnam Travel Guide
I had high hopes for Sapa Vietnam and it was just OK. A lot of little things added up to it not being that great. Sapa is at the very north of Vietnam, you could probably see China from here if you got up high enough and it wasn’t foggy (but it’s always foggy). Hiking through the H’mong and Xia villages was a highlight of our entire Vietnam trip, but the rest of the town just didn’t do it for us. Then being offered drugs by an elderly ethnic minority woman was the tipping point for me, it just felt over ‘tour-ized’ if that’s even a word.
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Sapa Vietnam Basics | FAQs
Does Sapa have an ATM?: Yes, several
Trekking through the local villages – We spent a day with a local guide hiking through 3 villages and along the beautiful rice terraces.
The weather – I have never been to a foggier place. The humidity in Sapa was so bad it broke one of our computers. As the sun would set the fog would roll in so heavy that by dinner time you couldn’t see more than 30 ft (10M) in front of you.
The time of the year – because of the climate Sapa only gets one rice harvest and if you don’t time it right the picture perfect fields of green rice are just muddy water terraces. Still pretty impressive, but it would be ridiculously pretty if they were bright green. The best time according to locals is July-August, but that’s also rainy season. The other downside of our time in Sapa was caused by the time of year, it was apparently so dry the government close access to most for the hiking in the area due to fire risk.
The Food – Every restaurant in town is significantly more expensive than everywhere else in Vietnam. It was difficult to find a meal for under 100,000 dong ($5 USD) which I know in the rest of the country I can get fat for that much per day! The worst part, even for the elevated prices the food was just bad. I had few meals that were actually decent, but it was very disappointing because overall I really like the food in Vietnam.
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Ham Rong (The Radio Tower) – The views are decent from up here but the rest of the park is extremely confused. Large fiberglass cartoon statues, paths to nowhere, and other strange sights just left us wondering why we paid 70,000 dong per person to climb up here.
Being asked offered drugs from a little old H’mong lady – That’s when you know tourism has gone wrong, when you get asked to purchase drugs from old lady.
It’s a pain to get here – The only way to Sapa is but a long train or bus journey. The train takes 8 hours + (depending on rail construction work) from Hanoi, then you need to catch a shuttle from the town Loa Chi (the closest ‘big’ city to Sapa to make it the rest of the way. You will pay minimum $35USD for a basic overnight sleeper train and the shuttle to Sapa.
Book your tickets in advance for the train – The nicer cars fill up especially around the weekends. On the way up to Sapa we were in the caboose, people sleeping on the bathroom floor, and a rat scampered through our cabin as we woke up in the morning.
Don’t over pay for the shuttle to/from Sapa – The fair price is 50,000 Dong per person. The drivers will start at 200,000+ but stick to your guns they will eventually give in and then ask you not to tell the other passengers that didn’t negotiate as well as you.
Go to the Supermarket – The convenience stores in town are very over priced. We walked every other day up to the supermarket across from the lake to get water, snacks, and bread. Their baguettes are very nice and only 5,000 dong.
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