Sapa is the most visited town in the province of Lao Cai. This province is closer to the border of China. It can be reached by an 8- hour train ride for a 350 km distance. It also a home of many minority ethnic tribes in Vietnam. Sapa is a perfect place for trekking, due to the obvious reason of her mountainous topography. Its mountain ranges and the rice terraces that’s been carved by the indigenous people on the side of the mountains which complement the breathtaking view.
I bought my sapa trekking tour through www.sapaochau.org. I chose this agency because it is a social enterprise founded by a lady, who belongs to a Hmong tribe. The profit of this organization will be given to the education of the Hmong tribe’s children.I chose the 2 days 1 night Red Dao Homestay trek, for 40 USD. The Red Dao tribe is known for their expertise for herbal. At the homestay, you will experience a herbal bath, which I am looking forward to it.
After the 8 hour journey on a train. I arrived at Lao Cai train station around 6 AM. The town of Lao Cai is the jump-off point to Sapa. I was met by the representative of SapaOChau. He is waiting for me at the arrival hall, holding a paper with my name written on it. I got in the van together with few travelers for an uphill journey.
After an hour of travel, we reach the town centre of Sapa. I was dropped at the office of the Sapa O Chau. I took my breakfast and left my bag. I met our guide, she did a short orientation of the trek. We were told to bring only the necessary things, for 2 days and 1-night trek.
We begin the Day 1 with a trek to the village of Suoi Ho, home to the Hmong minority people. From here you can enjoy stunning views of rice terraces, and you will have a chance to see some of the animals used by the locals. The next stop is the village of Ta Phin where both Hmong and Red Dao minorities live. I noticed that some house are already modern. They are starting to adapt to the fast-changing world.
We had our lunch at a restaurant that is overlooking the rice terraces. I am a foodie person, so I really enjoy the lunch.
Around late afternoon, we reached the house of our host family. The family is welcoming but due to their limited English, the members rarely talk to us. We observe that they are busy preparing for our dinner. We try to help, they showed us how to roll the wrap with mixed veggies and meat in it.
They showed us the meat that hangs over the fire. They said it is another way of preserving. I assumed it was preserved using the smoke. They said, “The meat can stay there for a month”. After the dinner, we took turns in pampering our body by soaking it in an herbal bath. The bath is really relaxing and it makes you sleep soundly.
Living in the village does not need an alarm clock. The rooster’s crow and the pig’s grunt serve as your alarm clock. The moment you hear their sounds, it is a sign that you need to wake up and get ready for your day.
We ate breakfast and packed our things. Our guide told us, we will pass villages of Hmong and Dao tribes. There will be a lot of peddlers and they are pushy in selling their things. Our guide told us that we just say no, never try to entertain or buy from them, or else all peddlers will keep on chasing you. I understand that our guide cannot stop these peddlers because they live in the same village. So she just gives us advice.
I did my trekking in the month of June. I do not enjoy the green rice terraces because June is a planting month. Our guide said March to May and August to September are the best time to trek. You can see the green or golden rice terraces. While walking, we saw the farmers are working in their fields, they are cleaning it using the buffalos. Some are starting to plant the rice seedlings.
We met women from different tribes, wearing their tribe traditional clothes. You can distinguish what tribe they belong to by the colour and patterns of their clothes. The Hmong (H’Mong), largest ethnicity of Sapa. Their Vietnamese traditional costumes are in black colours with decor on either the sleeves, colourful in Brown suits. While the Dao tribe is very similar to the Hmong ethnic group, they are distinguished because their traditional clothes are also black, but their hats are red (Dao thượng).
Around 2PM, we reached the road, where the car is waiting to pick us up. The van brought us to the Sapa O Chau office. I took a shower and walk around the Sapa centre. Around 5PM we left Sapa heading to Lao Cai. I am taking the train again. Looking forward to my Halong Bay Trip the next day.