Sapa & Surrounding Hill Tribe Villages in Vietnam
Sapa is a little hillside village located in midst of the Hoang Lien Mountains of Vietnam, which border the north western frontier with China. It was founded by the French as a station to enhance the communication trough out the area, and thanks to that, it is easily accessible from Hanoi , Vietnam’s Capital, by an overnight train (approximately 9 hours).
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Sapa has a French atmosphere clearly manifested in the urban architecture of the place. The town is completely tourist oriented but it is not artificially manufactured. Amongst the Occidentalized architecture of the hotels, restaurants and cafes, you’ll see lots of women elegantly dressed in hill tribe fashion speaking strange dialect and behaving as they always do, which means that Sapa has also a mixture of truly authentic hill tribe lifestyle. Sapa is the gateway to the many surrounding hill tribe villages of North Vietnam and the place to go if you’d like to experience their culture, traditions, behavior and way of life. They get the benefit of your visit, you get the benefit of their willingness to open up and show you their existence; it is somewhat touristy but it is also a win-win situation, and the only possibility for this encounter to take place.
Rice Terraces near Sapa
Another highlight of the region is the natural beauty of the irregular luscious landscape, composed of dramatic slopped mountains, wrapped in sometimes quite dense fog. For those who like mountain climbing, Mount Fansipan (3,143m) is pretty nearby.
A Visual Guide to Luang Prabang: http://hubpages.com/_1fclx5rkjd1r/hub/A-Visual-Travel-Guide-to-Luang-Prabang-Laos
Hill Tribe People
The hill tribe people of Vietnam have traditionally lived from the land, being agriculture their main activity. Now a day, some younger generations of women have learned English and moved on to work as tourist guides at Sapa. They generally make agreements with hotels and tour operators to head expeditions through the mountains and rice fields, to finally arrive at a particular hill tribe village, where home stays are arranged.
As you walk towards the village you’ll see family houses with their own terraces and peasant women, with the classic conical hats, working their own fields. Lifestyle in these places still goes around family and work, and people work with family. They lead a very simple uncomplicated life and they seem to be happy.
Trekking through Hoang Lien MountainsClick thumbnail to view full-size
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The expedition begins headed by one single hill-tribe-guide. The further you walk, the more women and children join the group until you are accompanied by a large female entourage. They are very friendly people, all smiles and positive attitudes. They are interested in westerners and they represent a good chance to learn more about their lives and customs. They ask all kinds of questions and want to conquer your heart and befriend you. You’ll find that in the end they will also want to sell you something, but that is OK.
I walked all the way alongside a very pretty tinny woman that seemed very wise and fit, and had an unusual sparkle in her eyes. Our communication was quite limited but she had a very nice attitude and I liked her company. She wore beautiful embroidered hill tribe clothing full of accessories including a headdress, a sort of “apron”, a belt, and a bag. She also had a very sophisticated heavy silver necklace that caught my attention. It was something very different and I really flattered her for it. Immediately after, she wanted to sell it to me and kept on and on insisting without stop. All though I genuinely liked the necklace, I was on a one year travel plan with two important things to have in mind (1) keep in budget and (2) don’t start accumulating stuff, limit myself to the capacity of my backpack. The persistency of the hill tribe women could sometimes be annoying but one has to bear in mind that their economy is very small in the context of a globalized changing world.
Hill Tribe People from Around SapaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Sapa Tourism Office
Hill Tribe Village Home Stay
After a whole day of walking across mountains and meeting women and children in the way, our guide took us to the designated home where we would spend the night. It was one of the few wooden houses that made up the tiny village in the lowest part of the valley, where the river runs.
At dusk, we had a nice traditional Vietnamese dinner cooked by the man of the house hold, which consisted of different stir fry combinations that included vegetables, poultry and tofu, served with white rice; very elementary and heartwarming. After a couple of cups of tea and some chit chat with the fellow visitors, we went to sleep in barn type fashion (on a blanket layout on the floor). It was just the one night to rest off the trek and head back to Sapa again the following morning, this time on a different route. We walked back through more horizontal terrain and crossed beautiful bamboo forest (exciting!), before climbing uphill again to the hotel on top of the hills.
Village of SapaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Places to stay in Sapa
- Cat Cat View Hotel - HOME
Accommodation, dining, walking & trekking, Homestay at hill-tribe villages,tours to local markets.