SaPa is located in the Lao Cai Province in northwest Vietnam. We visited one weekend and as soon as we got there it took me by the hand and wouldn’t let me go. SaPa is beautiful and I would go back in a heartbeat.
It’s a photographers dream. A whirlwind of culture, colour and warmth. My friend and I took the overnight train in a 4 bunk bed room from Hanoi to SaPa. We arrived early morning and got a van to our hotel where we settled in perfectly. And by perfectly I mean walking up the stairs and almost having a heart attack because my Vietnam diet was not particularly healthy.
The weekend consisted of wandering the streets, buying a hand made rug for $30 off of a local hill tribe woman and her hugging me with thanks (I almost cried), lots of food and a road trip to a local weekend market.
Where we stayed: Cat Cat Hotel, 42 Cat Cat Road, Phan xi Pang Street, SaPa- www.catcatsapa.com
The rooms were big and the beds were comfortable. We had a big patio with a gorgeous view (imagine it with no fog). The staff were friendly, the breakfast was great and it was central. I would stay back here in a heartbeat.
Where we went: The weekend market. This was organised through our hotel the day before. A mini van took us a hour or so out to the market where various hill tribes all come together to trade and buy goods. We bought things there ourselves including jewelry, fruit and handmade items. We also spent days wandering around town and taking everything in, chatting with local hilltribe women and young girls and just living in the moment.
The highlight: Buying a handmade rug off of a hill tribe lady one night on the side of the road. For the price I didn’t barter as it was beautiful. She was so very greatful and gave me and my friend some purses she had made to say thanks. Still get that warm and fuzzy feeling thinking about it.
The worst bit: There was fog. Lots of fog. I would have loved to do a day trek if the weather was clearer and we came more prepared. You can buy trekking gear in SaPa but i’d suggest you take your own. Oh and people spit in bags which makes me feel ill.
My hot tip: Bring a decent pair of walking shoes. Even if you are not trekking there are lots of hills and stairs. And wear layers as the weather can be unpredictable. If you get car sick like I do bring travel sickness tablets or ginger as the driving is well, erratic.
Enjoy: The beauty in the little things like the beading on the women’s outfits.
Expect: That some people don’t want to be photographed and if they do they may want payment in return. I’ve now learnt to always ask and show them photos afterwards.