VIETNAM | Sapa’s rice fields

VIETNAM | Sapa’s rice fields

The North of Vietnam is super diverse and it’s an area that has something for everybody. So, if you are fed up with the craziness of Hanoi, just hop on a bus and go explore the beautiful mountains and rice fields around Sapa. Sapa is a town located about 6 hours Northwest of Hanoi and honestly it’s a completely different world. As soon as you get off the bus you’ll be welcomed by the cool and clean mountain air and you immediately feel a completely different vibe. This town is located between the mountains and rice fields and can be used as a gateway to some amazing scenery.

How to get there
You can take a direct bus from Hanoi to Sapa. Most busses are sleeper busses, meaning you travel in a more lying position instead of having normal seats. However, these busses drive during the day too, so it’s up to you if you want to travel the 6-hour journey during the day or at night. Shop around at the travel agencies in the city before booking. We booked with our hostel and ended up paying way too much. From Sapa you can get a taxi or shuttle bus to other places in the area.

Where to stay
When we arrived in Sapa we discovered that we had booked a homestay about 6km from the city center. This wasn’t really our plan, but stupidly enough we hadn’t checked the location when booking. However, this actually ended up being a blessing in disguise! After being laughed at by a couple taxi drivers, we finally found one that was willing to bring us to our homestay. We soon discovered why all the other taxi drivers refused to do it, because the road was an absolute nightmare. We stayed at Hoang Kim homestay, in the village Ta Van, which is located right between the rice fields. The view was absolutely stunning and it was super easy to go on hikes from there. I definitely recommend staying in Ta Van or one of the other nearby villages. The village we stayed in had plenty of restaurants and there was electricity, hot water and WiFi everywhere, just don’t expect to find ATM’s.

Of course, you can also stay in the town center of Sapa, where there are a lot more facilities, such as bigger supermarkets, ATM’s and bars. We decided to stay in the town center the last night, because we were catching a bus back to Hanoi early in the morning. In my opinion, Sapa isn’t really that great and most hotel in town also don’t offer a view over the rice fields, so I definitely recommend staying in a homestay in one of the small village.

Things to do
The main activity in this area is for sure hiking. The nature is super pretty and what better way to explore it than on foot. It is possible to arrange a local guide to take you on a hike, but then you’ll have to be prepared to walk a lot (think 30 to 40 km). There are also many organized tours leaving from Sapa. We decided to just do a shorter hike by ourselves. We hiked to the Cau May waterfall from our homestay in Ta Van. This is about a 7 to 8 km loop. You basically just have to walk up the hill from the village and than you can make a loop back down (this is where you will stumble upon the waterfall at some point), cross the river and walk back on the other side. Both the way up and down are pretty steep, so it will take you a little longer than the average 8km hike. Also, at some points the path is unclear, so downloading a map of the area beforehand might be a smart idea. Another great activity when you are staying at a homestay is cooking and eating with your host. This allows you to learn a lot about the local culture and be part of the family for a little while.

Good to know
In the Sapa area they basically have four seasons in one day. The morning is cool, but nice like the spring, the afternoon is like a hot summer, in the evening it cools down quite a bit, like in the fall and at night it’s just freezing. So, make sure you are prepared for that. The house that we stayed in was completely made out of wood and let’s just say that I could see the stars in the sky through the roof… so as you can imagine it was pretty cold at night! It was a nice change after the heat and humidity in Hanoi (and the rest of Southeast Asia) though.

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