Sapa Vietnam - Localities and attractions
1 – Sapa Town
Nested under the shadow of Fansipan mountain, Sapa Town beautifully sits on a hill top at 1,600m above sea level, viewing over the Muong Hoa valley. Being unknown until 1880s when the French arrived Sapa town was quickly became well-known for its natural beauty, fresh and cool climate. As a result, in early decades of 20th Century, It was built into a summer resort by the French with some hundred villas to accommodate their colonials to escape away from summer heat of cities in lower regions.
The resistant war against the French(1945-1955), caused a lot of damages and Sapa was almost isolated and forgotten until 1990s when tourism started again in Vietnam. Sapa woke up to welcome the first tourists in early 1990s and be developing into a large town to serve the booming tourism. Although experiencing such fast growing, the town is well maintained its own charms and resisted its harmony to the surrounding nature. From the top of Ham Rong Mountains a perfect panorama view of the town open wide with lovely architectures and buildings under the shades of pine trees which centered around the Church and market place.
2 – Cat Cat Vilage
Cat Cat is a village of the Black H’mong, about 5 Km west of Sapa Town. Located near the bottom of a deep valley right at the foot of Fansipan, the village is surrounded by high mountains and terraced rice paddies on hill slope. There is a waterfall near the village where the French built a hydraulic power station and It is really a beautiful sport. A short walk from Sapa Town to Cat Cat Village, especially in late afternoon to admire magnificent landscape is worthwhile.
3 – Muong Hoa River & Valley
Starting as a small stream of water from the foot of Silver Waterfall about 14 Km northwest of Sapa town, weaving its way along mountains’ feet southeast between the two mountain ranges. About eight kilometers southeast of Sapa town, the two mountain ranges open wider to form the Muong Hoa Valley which get wider and wider as it goes further south about 30 km. The Muong Hoa valley is famous for breathtaking scenery and is the largest farmland for rice growing in Sapa district.
4 – Y Linh Ho Village
Located about 7 km southwest of Sapa town, on the west side of Muong Hoa River. Y Linh Ho is a small commune composed by a dozen of small hamlets scattering on the very tough mountain terrain with high and steep mountains. There are some hundred inhabitants from the Black H’mong only living in this commune. They built their rudimentary houses on their farmland and mainly cultivate corn and dry rice on the steep hillsides. The only way to get to the commune is on foot from the main road. It is also the place where we start many of our hiking tours.
5 – Lao Chai Village
About 8 – 9 Km southeast of Sapa town on the west bank of Muong Hoa River, Lao Chai is a commune composed by three large villages with over 100 families of the Black H’mong ethnic. From a high point of the main road 8 Km from Sapa town, great view of the whole village open wide to offer the marvelous panorama of the village, backed by high mountains and facing the river. The H’mong people in this village experience rice intensive farming on the lower land near the bottom of the valley as main source of earning while growing corn on the mountain slopes at the back of the village.
6 – Ta Van Village
Next to Lao Chai on the same side of Muong Hoa River is Ta Van village where the Zay and H’mong ethnic people live together. This is one of the best places to see the different traditional ways of living as well as cultural assimilation. The Zay live a sedentary style and always choose the low land near valleys’ bottom and river for growing wet rice while the H’mong prefer higher elevation for corn farming. Especially some decade ago when poppy cultivation for opium was not forbidden. Recently, the H’mong changed from sifting into sedentary way of life they gradually move to lower land and learn many things from others. At this moment Ta Van can be reach by car, Jeep, mini van. However a trail up and downhill from Y Ling Ho through Lao Chai to Ta Van offers superb and romantic rout to hikers.
7 – Su Pan Village
Also located along Muong Hoa Valley like Lao Chai and Ta Van but Su Pan commune can be referred to as “mountainous commune”. Occupying the highland on the east side of the main road about 17 Km from Sapa town, Su Pan including 4 small hamlets of the Black H’mong and Red Zao looks down to the Muong Hoa Valley and is one of the poorest commune to Sapa due to the thin and poor soil. Walking uphill from the road, one can see rudimentary houses built on the rocky farmland where the locals cultivate corn for their staple food.
8 – Giang Ta Chai Village
Opposite to Su Pan on the other side of Muong Hoa River and valley is Giang Ta Chai village of the Red Zao ethnic, nested under shade of the trees and bamboo hedges near a large and magnificent waterfall. The Red Zao people here built their houses on the rocky land and little bit reserved to outsiders. From the main road, a narrow trails as a string down to the river and a romantic suspension bridge cross to the other side, passing the foot of the waterfall to the village.
9 – Ban Ho Village
At the end of the motor way about 25 Km from Sapa town lies a vast and flat valley, circled by mountains and hills. It is Ban Ho valley home to the Tay ethnic. The Muong Hoa River winds its way around the village provide fresh water for 2 crops of rice and bean every year and it make the scenery of the valley more romantic. The Tay people possesses high rice farming technique and live sedentary lifestyle. Their villages are often very large with hundred households. Their houses are impressively built on stilts in unique structure to form superb dwellings. It is also a very good village for experiencing home stay.
10 – Thanh Son – My Son – Nam Cang Villages
Lying at the southern edge of the district, about 35km from Sapa town, these three villages each consist of about 10 to 15 families are among the most remote villages and home to the Xa Pho, a very small ethnic group populated as few as nearly 4,000 in Vietnam only. Till nowadays these people rarely contact with people from other group and most of them can speak their own slang only. However schools were built in these villages recently and the children now go to school. The Xa Pho in these villages are among the poorest people in Vietnam due to backwards farming technique. They mainly live on slash and burn agriculture, hunting, gathering forest products such as bamboo shoot, mushroom. For about 10 years up to now, some projects and programs have been carrying out here in order to help villagers to handle better farming technique to improve their life but it will take time. A tough trail which takes about 5 to 6 hours walk from Ban Ho village which offers fabulous scenery and a chance to explore, meet and witness the amazingly hard life of the Xa Pho in these villages.
11 – Ma Tra & Ta Phin Villages
Lying some kilometers east of Sapa town lies a large oval shaped valley which is home to the H’mong and Red Zao of Ma Tra and Ta Phin Village. Following the main road from Sapa to Lao Cai for 4km, one can enjoy the panorama view of the whole valley, stretching for about 12 Km with some low hills in the middle to divide the valley into two parts. The closer part to the road is area of Ma Tra village and the further one is Ta Phin village where the Red Zao and Black H’mong share the land. The H’mong occupy the higher land on which they built narrow terraced rice paddies while the Red Zao cultivate larger and flat fields around the center of the valley. From over 10 years ago, a 15km motor way was built to connect the center of the valley with Sapa town and it takes only half an hour. However, It is much more interesting to follow the trail which run on high elevation around the valley for a real life discovery.
12 – Silver Waterfall & Tram Ton Heaven gate
Following the main road 4C 14km further north is the famous Silver Waterfall and 4 km more is the highest mountain pass of Vietnam which is called by locals Heaven Gate. The road ride offers great view of the magnificent Fansipan on the other side of the valley with immense lush forest. Tram Ton pass is also an ideal point for enjoying breathtaking scenery of the west side of Fansipan which is very different from the east side due to the different climate.
ETHNIC MINORITY MARKETS
A – General
Ethnic minority peoples or hill tribal peoples dominate Sapa as well as the northern mountainous region of Vietnam. Although minority people lived their traditional live basing on self subsidiary style, the need for exchanging their products is always strong. And more than that the wish of meeting others for socializing is very important which adds special significant to the meaning of markets in the mountainous region where most of the ethnic minorities live in remote and isolated villages.
As going to attend a festival, tribal peoples always wear their best colorful traditional costumes to go to the markets. After selling out their produces such as fruit, rice, corn, vegetable, handicraft, chicken, pigs or even buffaloes and horses… men gather, sitting on wooden bench at many footstalls drinking corn wine while women with children enjoying noodle soup and all talking cheerfully. Especially the markets give youngsters chances to make friend with others and seeking for lover!
It is always a fantastic experience to visitors to attend one of these local markets as part of a memorable vacation in Vietnam.
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