If you have a Pinterest and have typed in Vietnam, then it is likely that you have seen the majestic photos of Sapa. Huge terraced hills, fields of rice patties and seemingly endless mountains. This beautiful place is a must see if you are traveling to Hanoi or anywhere in northern Vietnam!
How to get there:
Sapa is located around 8-ish hours north west of Hanoi, the easiest way to get there is by train! There is no actual train station in Sapa but there is one in Lao Chai, a town about an hour away. There are trains that leave in the evening and morning, but I would recommend taking a later night train. The beds were very comfy and made the journey go fast, to check out the train time table click here!
From Lao Chai it will take about an hour to get to Sapa. When you hop off the train there will be many people offering you tickets for a shuttle bus or minivan up to Sapa. If you haven’t arranged a pick up before hand these are a good option!
With the trekking agency we booked through a pick up was included which made things easier! Once you get to Sapa there are tons of different trekking agencies. If you have time, like to go with the flow you will have no trouble sorting out your accommodation and trek once you get there as the whole city is devoted to trekking! There are many different companies and hotels available throughout the small city!
How do you plan a trek?
If you are like me, and want to plan it a head of time there are many many many different companies that plan treks for you! A quick google search will give you what you need. I would recommend you check out Sapa Sisters! This is what we went through and it was fab! Not only do they pick you up and give you breakfast they also offer a storage room where you can put your stuff and a shower so you can start your trek fresh after a long train ride. Afterwards, you have your own private guide who hikes with you for the two days.
Another big reason why I chose Sapa Sisters because it is a company owned and operated by women! With so many companies in Sapa paying their H’mong women unfair wages and treating them poorly I didn’t want to contribute to the cycle. Sapa Sisters is a little bit more expensive but I wanted to know that my money was funding a good cause. They provide their workers with paid parental leave and medical care, as well as donating to their children’s early education/providing support to women who have suffered from domestic abuse.
What should I expect while trekking?
While trekking you will be surrounded by a good amount of people at all times. The main trail was more populated then I imagined it would have been, but never the less it was still gorgeous. The trail meanders through the mountains and valleys, giving you breathtaking views.
H’mong women who are not guides frequent this main trail. They will sort of latch themselves on to your group and quietly follow you for hours. Once you rest or reach a stop they will try and sell you their hand made goods. If you know you will not buy anything it is easier to be kind but firm and tell them from the get go that there is no money to be made by following you. Your guide most likely will not say anything to them. In many cases they will know these women personally and are from the same village, therefore telling them off would cause conflict at home.
To home-stay or not to home-stay?
If I were you, I would say an enthusiastic yes to participating in a home-stay! At first I wasn’t sure weather or not to pay extra for a home-stay but after seeing how many tourists there were on the main trail it was clear that the traditional guest house would be full of foreigners, thus lacking a unique experience. Our guide, May said that her grandmother would be able to give us a bed in her house. She cooked us an incredible meal and we got to hike around the village that she lived in. May’s little cousins were there as well, along with her brother and his wife. It was such an amazing experience getting off the beaten path, away from the tourists and just being able to talk with May and run around with her cousins playing hide and seek!
What to wear and bring?
Since you will be hiking for around five hours each day its important to pack light! You will be carrying whatever you bring for a long time, even if it feels light at the beginning it wont by the end of the day.
On both of the days I wore a pair of The North Face hiking pants and boots along with an Under Armor shirt.
In my bag I packed:
Rain shell, thin long sleeved shirt, yoga Pants (to sleep in), underwear, camera, water bottle, tooth brush
And that’s it!
Granted I wish I brought some other things. It got very cold at night and in the early mornings so a warmer jacket would have been useful, along with an extra shirt to sleep in. Staying in the same shirt for two days while sweating was not as hygienic as I would have liked, but oh well! Otherwise that was a good amount of stuff, less is definitely more.
Train to Sapa: $42 USD (Book Online)
Sapa Sisters Two Day Trek: $84 USD
– Included pick up
– All meals
– Luggage Storage
Overnight bus to Ha Long Bay: $25 USD (You can book in Sapa)
Overall trekking Sapa was an unforgettable experience! Even though the weather wasn’t superrrrr great and all the rice had just been harvested it still was probably my favorite stop in Vietnam!