Sapa is located in northern Vietnam in an area bordering China. A small mountain town almost 350 kilometers from Hanoi. The main attraction is arguably the awe-inspiring landscape of natural beauty. Like most visitors who come here, I also chose to visit Sapa to experience the iconic rice terraces, the mountains and the the small villages inhabited by different ethnic minorities. It's the perfect place for hiking. From Hanoi we took the night train to Sapa to stay for three days.
In the 19th century the Lao Cai area was fighting ground for various armed groups, who took refuge in the mountains of Vietnam after the Taiping rebellion in China. The main purpose was to control the shipping on the Red River. By the end of the 1930s Sapa had over a thousand colonials who came to rest and have fun. It had become a fashionable mountain resort for the Hanoi colonial society. Still, many of the town's houses have retained their colonial architecture as typical Alpine style houses.
Sapa is a quiet town, but the different ethnic groups do make the town very colorful. There are five main ethnic groups: the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho. It's said that it was the first four groups who came to Sapa first since the Vietnamese in the lowlands didn't settle in the highlands.
Just a few kilometers outside town there are small picturesque villages surrounded by rice terraces. Even it was cold, it was pleasant to walk here. The scenery is beautiful. The village of Cat Cat seems to be one of the villages on the tourist trail. All the way along the road through the village plenty of products are for sale.
On our last day in Sapa we had no plans. We had already been around town and we had walked through the villages. At the hotel we were told that there is a cable car which takes people almost to the top of Mt. Fansipan. We deceided to do that.
Fan Si Pan is the highest mountain in Vietnam, rising 3,143 m.above sea level. Ever since ancient times, it has been regarded as a sacred place for the cultures that have populated the areas of northern Vietnam for many centuries. Today, mountain tourism and the ascent of Fansipan has become one of the major attractions. Especially after the cable car opened.
To get to the top of Fansipan is most likely one of the major attractions in the province of Lao Cai There are plenty of local tour operators who arrange trekking trips to the top. Something we found out could be done on a two day hike. The distance is only 20 km, but the climb is difficult and the weather can also be unpredictable. If you start your trip in the sun, you may end up with clouds on the top. We hadn't pre-booked a hike, since a hike to the top was'nt part of our plan. Since it's possible to get to the top in less time we chose the easy way.
The cable car takes people to the a platform almost on top. Fast and comfortable. This is the Fansipan Legend which opened in 2016. It only takes 20 – 25 minutes from the station and up to the platform. After getting off the cable car we had to walk the 600 steps to the top. At the platform there is a restaurant, souvenir shop and a complex with pagodas. As you can see on the photos the weather didn't give us the ultimate great views we had hoped for. On the return it cleared up so we could look down on the farms and rice paddies below us. This is the first time in my life I've taken the easy way up a mountain! We returned to Hanoi by train to continue our travels from north to south of Vietnam.
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