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:
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.
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.