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Sapa

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Our Editorial team's advice

At an altitude of 5,400 ft, the village of Sapa is located in a region once known as the Tonkin Alps to the French. The typical landscapes of terraced rice paddies and the population which mainly consists of minority ethnic groups such as the Dao and H'mongs, have made the reputation of this mountain region in the north of Vietnam. Now that it attracts tourists, it has lost some of its charm, particularly because of the many hotels that are being built. However, once you go a little distance away from the village, you will uncover unspoilt nature where time seems to have stopped a long while ago.
This is the ideal destination for the exploration of the Vietnamese countryside and for encountering ethnic minorities.

To see

The local market where the locals come and sell their handicraft.
On Saturday nights, the Love market is a regular event during which song, dance and traditional music is performed for young people to come and meet up with the ethnic minorities.
The surrounding countryside.

To do

Stay with locals.
Hike in the terraced rice paddies.
Hire a motorbike and go off for about ten miles away from the town to meet ethnic minorities who live in breathtaking landscapes.

pros

  • +  The landscapes
  • +  Meeting with the locals
  • +  Hiking across rice paddies

cons

  • -  Insistent ladies selling their goods at the market
  • -  The rain season

To think about

Wrap up warmly on the train which takes you there as it is air-conditioned, but also once you are there (between October and March), when temperatures can drop as low as 0°C.
Ask ethnic minorities for their authorisation before taking photographs of them (you would like them to do the same for you).

To avoid

Taking photographs of the ethnic minorities without their authorisation.
Going in the rain season (July, August, September) during which mud makes the roads unsuitable for driving.

To try

Game, mushroom but also cat and dog, sold at the market.

To bring back

Local handicraft (bags, fabric, traditional wear, pouches, etc.) made by the women of the ethnic minorities, who are outstanding sewers.
Honey, which has an excellent reputation but is uneasy to pack as it is only sold in glass bottles.
Mountain clothing, from trousers and rucksacks to fleeces, jackets and boots.
Always negotiate prices!
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