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About Sapa

Sapa is a mountain town nestled in the Tonkinese Alps in Northern Vietnam, 1600m above sea level. It is 38km form the train station in the city of Lao Cai.

HISTORY

Sapa district was first inhabited by some of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minorities hundreds of years ago. The Colonial French saw Sapa’s touristic potential around the turn of the last century. Since then, Sapa has undergone much change, but the traditional culture of the Sapa people has been preserved.

ETHNIC TRIBES

Sapa district has around 40,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are from ethnic minorities and just over half are Black H’mong. The other ethnic groups living here are Red and Black Dao, Kinh, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho.

SAPA TODAY

What was once a small H’mong village, is now a bustling mountain destination that is a must on the traveler’s itinerary. Tourists use it as a base to visit some of the ethnic villages in the area as well as a starting point for the trek up the 3142 meters high Mount Fansipan.

There is a great selection of restaurants, Western and Vietnamese. Street BBQs are a cheap option and offer not only a great selection of foods but also a chance to share a shot of rice wine with the locals. The market is a great option and an experience as you can share your table with some of the tribes people and get in on the local gossip. There are plenty of places where you can dig in to a bowl of Pho (rice noodle soup) or Bun Cha (meatball and noodle soup).

Nightlife in Sapa is relatively low key, but the fresh beer from kegs flows all day in summer and with a thriving expat community and visitors arriving every day you will not be short of a friendly face to chat to if you visit one of the local bars or streetside partys!

Sleeping here you are spoilt for choice. There are plenty of hotels on offer, from luxury to budget, and Sapa O’Chau can help you find a room for as little as $5 a night. If you plan to stay longer than a week and your negotiation skills are honed then you might even be able to strike a deal with a local hotelier. A word of warning – hot water and some form of heating is essential in the winter here… so don’t scrimp on a few dollars for the sake of some basic comforts!

GETTING HERE

From Hanoi a train service runs regularly from Train Station B "Tran Quy Cap" to Lao Cai city. It is an overnight journey so a soft sleeper reservation is recommended. If luck is on your side you will be able to book a ticket on the day but best give yourself a couple of days so as you do not end up travelling overnight on a hard seat! Cabins have either 4 or 6 berths and unless you are travelling with a group it’s pot luck who you end up sharing with… so if you are a light sleeper then ear plugs and an eye mask are a good idea!

At the Train Station – please note that there are many people willing to lend you a hand to locate your train and cabin – but at a price and perhaps not a reasonable one! Keep hold of your bags and head out to the train tracks… your ticket will tell you which platform the train is departing from and the platforms are numbered. Just give yourself plenty of time and enjoy the experience of boarding a train in Vietnam. Remember to keep hold of your tickets to present on arrival at Lao Cai Station!

Once you arrive in Lao Cai there are plenty of minibus touts who would love to take you to Sapa. This can be an interesting experience! Here’s a few tips…

  • Smile
  • Grab a coffee if you need one.
  • Do not be worried that you will be stuck in Lao Cai… the drivers will wait.
  • Pay between 40,000 and 50,000 for one person. Do not be swept off your feet.
  • Walk into the car park and find the fullest bus… then agree the price with the driver. That way you know you will be leaving soon and not waiting for the next train to arrive with more tourists.

 

Alternatively, if that does not sound like much fun at 5:30 a.m in the morning then we can arrange a transfer for you… just let us know and a friendly face will be waiting for you at the entrance to the train station holding a Sapa O’Chau sign with your name on it :o)

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