Story of my experience visiting the Sapa rice terraces
Where is Sapa?
Our last stop in Vietnam has been the increasingly famous Sapa rice terraces. Sapa is one of the most worthwhile places to visit in Vietnam and one that no traveler coming to this country should miss.
Sapa is located in the northwest of Vietnam, at an altitude of about 1600 meters. It is a small city located between the mountains of Hoàng Liên Son, surrounded by rice fields and humble villages. Many tourists come here to hike and discover the deepest and most natural Vietnam.
One of the biggest attractions, apart from the rice terraces of Sapa, are the ethnic groups that live in the area. You mostly meet three types: the Hmong, the Dao and the Tay. The Hmongs and the Dao are the most common to see in the village. Dressed in their traditional clothes they always greet you very sympathetically. They ask you where you are from and then try to sell you some souvenir normally made by them. Their most typical phrase is: “Buy something for me, sir”. Anyone can appreciate that sympathy, that smile on their face and that they are always making jokes whether you buy or not.
Trekking in the Sapa rice terraces: 2 days trekking
From Hanoi to the Sapa rice terraces
Since we wanted to go to the lost villages in the area, and we had been told that it was very difficult to get there on our own, we ended up taking a tour from Hanoi. The tour consisted of two days walking between the rice terraces of Sapa, the surrounding mountains and the local villages. In the evening, we would sleep the first day in Sapa just to arrive and the second day in the houses of village people (homestay).
The first day of trekking we left the hotel early in the morning. Just leaving the hotel with our guide we were joined by a group of Hmongs women and girls who would accompany us part of the way. We spent the day walking between rice terraces and villages lost in the mountains. The rice paddies were already growing when we arrived and the landscape, although beautiful, was not as incredible as we had imagined. (The landscape of the rice terraces when they are just finished planting and are full of water is much more spectacular).
During the tour the Hmongs didn’t try to sell us anything. They just walked around with us, occasionally telling you something, making jokes and laughing at each other. You could ask them about their life in Sapa, and even though the older ones didn’t speak English, the younger ones would answer you in fluent English. After lunch, just before they left with another group, they started offering souvenirs of Sapa, and although I don’t usually buy these things, I ended up buying them something to thank them for the pleasant company.
Sleeping in a homestay
At night we sleep in a village near the rice fields. We stayed in a “homestay”, a house of some villagers who had simply left a room full of sleeping bags and well covered with mosquito nets. We had dinner with the family of the house and, I’m not sure if it was the time or the place, but it seemed like the best meal I ever tried in Vietnam.
The next morning we continued our walk through the rice fields, passed a few other villages of different ethnic minorities and returned to Sapa at midday. These two days of trekking through the rice terraces of Sapa I will keep them in the drawer of my best memories. It was certainly the best experience we had during a month-long trip through Vietnam.
Crossing the border: from Sapa to Laos
We liked Sapa so much that we stayed another day to spend it quietly in the city. After getting our strength back, it was time to keep moving so we went to a travel agency to arrange a trip to the Laos border. Our next destination was Dien Bien Phu, the border town where we planned to cross the Vietnam-Laos border.
One of the things that surprised me most about this trip to Sapa was how, whether it was 10-year-old girls selling you or women over 60 carrying big sacks of rice, they always greeted you with a smile. It makes you realize that you don’t need so many things to be happy. I hope one day to return to this special place, to see the smiling ethnic minorities of Vietnam and enjoy the rice terraces of Sapa.
«In 2017 I returned to the Sapa rice terraces. I met a very nice villager who took me on a trek through the rice terraces. She invited us to her house, to meet her family and to see her rural way of life. If you go to Sapa and want the contact, don’t hesitate to contact me.»
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