Above the clouds in Sapa, Vietnam

 

Sapa is a small town way up in the mountains of northwestern Vietnam.  It is a popular spot on the tourist trail for its trekking, homestays, cool weather, and beautiful vistas.  Even though I had heard good things about Sapa, I had a hard time deciding if I would go there, or instead to a town called Mai Chau which is not as touristy.  In the end, I decided to follow some of my travel buddies to up to Sapa on an overnight bus from Hanoi.

I’m glad I went, but I really didn’t do any of the things that Sapa is so famous for… I didn’t go hiking and I didn’t stay at a homestay with a local hill-tribe family.  Instead, my friends  and I stayed at Go Sapa Hostel and were really lazy.  On our first day there, we walked around town, ate street food and drank coffee.  Then we made our way up to the peak of Fansipan mountain via the world’s longest cable car, which just opened in February.  Fansipan is Indochina’s highest peak at 10,312 feet (3,143 meters) in altitude.  The cable car ride to the top took about 20 minutes and was extremely expensive (600,000 dong = approx. $30).  But we thought it was worth it to summit the highest mountain in this part of the world, which would have take 1-2 days on foot.  Once at the top of the cable car platform, it’s another 600+ steps up to the highest point.  It is very cold and windy at the summit.  They are also still doing a ton of construction up there, building what looks like temples, pagodas, cafes, and maybe accommodation.  I’m glad we went before construction is complete and the place turns into a mountain-top Disneyland.

Here’s the view from my hostel balcony:

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Sapa Town

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Sapa Town

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Sapa Town

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This poor guy was chained up outside a hotel

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Girls from the Black H’Mong tribe making bracelets

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I bought the one this girl is making

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Women from the Red Dao tribe selling their handmade wares

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Women from the Red Dao tribe selling their handmade wares

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This sweetie joined us for coffee

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Sapa hotel… NOT where I stayed 🙂

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Sapa downtown

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This looks like a precarious situation for that truck

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Chinese Buddhist temple in Sapa

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Street side bahn mi

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View of Sapa from the Fansipan cable car

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In the Fansipan cable car

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Views from the Fansipan cable car

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Views from the Fansipan cable car

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Top of Mount Fansipan

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Top of Mount Fansipan

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Top of Mount Fansipan, Indochina’s highest peak

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Top of Mount Fansipan, Indochina’s highest peak

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Top of Mount Fansipan, Indochina’s highest peak

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Top of Mount Fansipan, Indochina’s highest peak

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In the cable car we had a scare when the cars stopped moving for about 10 minutes and it was REALLY WINDY!

That night I got really sick with a fever of 101.5, chills, body ache, headache, and sweating. Of course the worst case scenario popped into my head: malaria.  By morning, I was feeling better except that I was extremely fatigued.  My friends and I had considered trekking that day, but due to my physical state we decided to hire a taxi driver to take us around the countryside.  We had a lovely and relaxing 4-hour tour and easily saw a lot more than we would have if we had been hiking, although I realize it’s a different experience altogether.

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Sapa village

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Sapa

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Someone’s pet bird, not tied up

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Sapa

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Sapa

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Village girls selling bracelets

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Village boys at play

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They were so cute and curious about us!

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The girls were more shy

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Our taxi driver taking a bong hit… just kidding. This is a common way to smoke tabacco in Vietnam, from a bamboo water bong.

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Sapa

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Me and Vici in Sapa

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Sapa

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Sapa goats

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Sapa

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The villagers around Sapa have tons of children, so you frequently see small children carrying a baby sibling on their back, while mom carries yet another baby.

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Villagers harvesting rice seedlings to replant in one of the terraced fields. The seeds are grown in water, in small, tightly packed spaces like this. Once they become seedlings, they are collected (as you see them doing here), transferred to a terraced field, and spread out so they have room to grow to maturity.

If I return to Sapa some day, I will do it right with a proper homestay and multi-day trekking.  But for now, I’m happy with the short but sweet visit I had there.

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