When traveling we see new places and buildings, experience different flavors, and get to know new cultures. Sapa gives us all of that and so much more. This small town in Northwest Vietnam offers us the opportunity to see from the inside how local people live and how different and simpler ways of life work.
Get ready to go through a two days adventure around Sapa villages in which we will walk 20 km and get involved in life in the mountains.
Day 1: The adventure begins
Guides arrive around 7 am to pick you up from the bus or train and take you for breakfast. After that, people are organized in small groups and the adventure begins!
Our local guide was Suri, a lovely woman who knew about the rest of the world and other countries because of the stories that tourist people told her every day during the trekking. She was 30 years old and had never left the mountain apart from one time she went to Hanoi. That made me think how lucky we are and how easy everything is for us. We just don’t imagine things, we see and do them as well.
We had rain during the morning but it was warm. We could still enjoy the landscapes and nature. On the way, Suri explained to us about the vegetation in the area and how they cultivate tea and different vegetables. She shows us which plants were not good to touch or eat and how to pick the right fruit from the trees. Real organic stuff!
We stopped for lunch and had a typical and tasty Pho, a noodle soup made with vegetables, meat, and loads of coriander. It tasted great, especially after walking in the rain! Luckily after eating and having a bit of a rest it stopped raining and the journey became more pleasant.
Time to get involved in the local lifestyle
Around 4:30 pm we arrived at Suri’s home, where we were spending the night. She introduced us to her family and we made ourselves at home. Her little five years old girl, Sum, stole everybody’s heart. She didn’t know any English, but that wasn’t a problem. She took her notebook and some crayons and started to play with us communicating by gestures and drawings. It was amazing to see we understood each other and got along without speaking the same language, just a bit of interest and effort was enough. She invites us to paint with her and taught us some games to play with our hands. After an hour she wouldn’t leave our side and wouldn’t stop hugging us 😍.
It was so interesting to see how she analyzed all our stuff like our shoes, clothes, lighters, etc. Things were really common for us, but not for people living in a mountain in North Vietnam. One of the things I love the most about traveling is ‘the first times’. The first time you see or try something is amazing. A unique and unforgettable moment that may lead you to discover new feelings or things from yourself. Seeing Sum discovering something new was as beautiful as doing it for me. She reminds us how great is to have a lantern or something to play music with.
After all the fun, a homemade meal for dinner was ready. As we were guests, we had to adjust ourselves to the local traditions. We sat on the floor, all together around the table using chopsticks, no forks in Sapa’s mountains. During the dinner, Suri told us about her life and daily duties. She was with her husband since they were little and she used to work in agriculture. A few years ago her sister started a business offering trekking experiences and Suri decided to learn English to become a tour guide and open her home to people willing to know Sapa’s culture.
When we were all full Suri brought us a surprise, the ‘Happy water’🍾. A liquor made from rice. It was quite strong, so think about it before having more than a couple of shots! We finished the bottles altogether and got ready for bed. We were so tired that we could have slept standing on the porch.
Day 2: A little new guide
After a nice sleep, we woke up early with the smell of pancakes! Breakfast was waiting for us in the porch! Same as our lovely girl, Sum. The time to leave arrived and she wasn’t happy about it. She started crying and begging to her mum to let her come with us! Luckily we convinced Suri to do so.
It wasn’t the first time Sum did that journey, so she became her mum’s little helper and lead us today. She showed us her favorite flowers and fruits and beat us in many races. She met some local friends and introduced them to us.
Today it wasn’t raining but it didn’t mean that the trekking was easier. The first part of the route was going up to reach a high point in which the view of the rice terraces was stunning. After we had to go down the slope for a while and we had to slow down the pace as it was very muddy and slippery! We needed to find different balance techniques but still, some of us didn’t manage to stand up. I have to say that it was fun. We took it as a part of the adventure. Taking into account that it was impossible to look perfect in the pictures at that point, it was better to enjoy and not to worry about being wet or covered with mud for once! It was good for our skin and our smile as we laughed a lot.
After the path was easier and we manage to see the rice terraces closer and once we even pass through one of them.
The differences of living in the mountain
During our trekking we passed by small towns, many of them didn’t even have school. We were told that kids have to walk kilometers to the closest school every time they have lessons, which is not every day.
We also had the chance to meet Hmong people, an ethnic group who wear lively colors and live in the mountain working in agriculture and doing handcrafted clothes and jewelry.
Shops were not very common around neither. People from the area cultivate and have animals, so they have most of the things they need with them. To get other products like clothes or shoes they need to go to Sapa village which can be 1 or 2 hours driving depending on the area.
Today it was a shorter day and we finish the trekking before lunch at around 1:30 pm. We had another tasty meal and said goodbye to Suri and Sum. Then we took a minibus to Sapa where our bus was waiting for us to go back to Hanoi.
We left Sapa with a huge smile, an unforgettable experience and the feeling of wanting more. More green and unique landscapes 💚, more hospitable people with a lot of stories to tell, more clean air, and less Wi-Fi and phones.
How to get to Sapa
Sapa is easy to reach from Hanoi by sleeper train, which is more comfortable but slower or night bus, depending on your budget and time. We took the bus, which departs around 11 pm and gets you to Sapa between 4 or 5 am. Once you are there, you can stay on the bus sleeping and resting until your guide comes to pick you up for breakfast. Don’t worry, is warm, safe and quiet comfortable as night buses in Vietnam instead of regular seats have a kind of bed-seats in which you can sleep better than when traveling around Europe sometimes.
Choosing your Sapa trekking option
There are different length, routes and accommodation options to suit everybody. The most popular excursions are 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights. All have a local guide, food and accommodation included. You don’t have to worry about your luggage. You can carry just the stuff needed for the trekking and the rest of your belongings will be taken to your accommodation every day.
You can book the excursion in Hanoi with the transport or if you are more of an adventurous and saver type you can arrange just transportation in Hanoi and the trekking once you are in Sapa. There are always local companies waiting at the bus stop for people who haven’t taken a package in Hanoi.
Taking the complete tour experience from Hanoi with transport and trekking seemed to be the most convenient option. There wasn’t much price difference with the options offered in Sapa and it was easier to organize.
Doing trekking in Sapa is an unforgettable experience, definitely a must if you visit Vietnam.