Sapa is a town in the northwest region of Vietnam, close to the border of China. It’s about 350 km northwest from Hanoi. It’s up in the mountainous region in the Lao Cai province, so to get there from Hanoi typically travelers would take a train ride from Hanoi to the city of Lao Cai, then continue on with a drive to Sapa. The area became popular as a resort town for the French colonist given it’s cooler climate. Today it is becoming a popular tourist destination in Northern Vietnam since it is one place that you can see encounter several indigenous tribes in Vietnam (the Hmong, Dzao, Tai, and Giay) and also see the village life and the terraced rice fields. Mount Fansipan, the highest mountain peak in Indochina at more than 10,000 ft high, is also nearby, so it’s also a good place to go for hikers.

When we’re planning for the trip to Northern Vietnam, the idea to visit Sapa as part of the iterary came after talking with some friends who had been in the area and also watching Travel Channel program about Vietnam. I have a couple of friends who used to live in China, and one time they took the land route through Vietnam on the way to a conference in Thailand. During that trip, they went through Sapa, and they absolutely loved the place because it offered two things they loved, hiking the mountains and immersing themselves in indigenous cultures. Then as I looked for more information to learn about Vietnam, there was a featured program on the Travel Channel where one of its hosts, Samantha Brown, visited Vietnam. One of the experiences she had, visiting Sapa and staying with a local family. Kristi and I were both sold after that, as this would be a little ‘off the beaten path’ experience and it’s definitely unique during our Southeast Asia trip.

The photo below was taken during our hike. You can see the terraced rice fields down in the valley, seen from the mountain-side path we passed during our hike.

Terraced rice fields

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