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Head Quarter in Hanoi, Vietnam: 

Add:  Suites 514 & 1312. 4 F Building, Trung Hoa Street, Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel:  +844-37834288, Fax:  +844-37834286
Hotline: Tony Bui + 84-988900722
Email: [email protected]
Hotline: Jose Hai + 84-983033883
Email: [email protected]

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Despite its commercialization during the last seven years, Sapa is still a must-see on any northern Vietnam itinerary. On a clear day you will treated to views of steeply terraced rice fields, towering verdant ridgelines, primitive mud-thatched villages, raging rivers and astounding waterfalls.

Nestled high in the Tonkinese Alps near the Chinese border, Sape was built as a hill station during French colonial days, to serve as a respite from stifling Hanoi summers. These days, weekends are still the biggest draw in this crumbling hill-tribe center. Visitors from the capital flock to Sapa for a glimpse of the famed "Love Market," a trek to local hill tribe villages, or an ascent of Vietnam's highest peak, Fan Si Pan.

Some eight ethnic groups inhabit Lao Cai province: Hmong, Dao, White Thai, Giay, Tay, Muong, Hao and Xa Pho. The most prominent in town are the Red Dao, easily identified by the coin-dangling red headdresses and intricately embroidered waistcoats worn by the women, and the Hmong, distinguished by their somewhat less elaborately embroidered royal blue attire. Groups of ethnic Hmong youngsters and women can be seen hauling impossibly heavy, awkward baskets of wood, stakes, bamboo, bricks, mud and produce. Deep in the valleys surrounding Sapa, the Muong Hoa River sluices a wild, jagged course among Giay, Red Dao and White Thai settlements, their tiny dwellings poking out of the neon rice fields like diamonds on a putting green. One- to four-day treks are offered by a handful of outfitters. Guests sleep in tents or in the homes of villagers, their gear hauled by Hmong porters. Be warned: Despite what the local innkeepers will tell you, both the Hmong and the Dao really do not enjoy having their photographs taken unless they're paid for it. It's a certainty that any brochure you see of smiling, care-free ethnic hill people was shot under a Screen Actors Guild contract.

Sa pa is famed for its "Love Market" – sort of a cross between a peacock mating ritual, a Middle Eastern arms bazaar, an Amish square dance, a bad Pavarotti concert and Bangkok's Patpong (except here the people wear clothes). On Saturday nights, Red Dao hill tribe youths of both sexes congregate in a weekly courting rite, singing tribal versions of Loretta Lynn love songs to woo the opposite sex. The songs are highly personalized and boast of the composer's physical attributes, domestic abilities and strong work ethic. While Dao women are indeed highly industrious, the men, it seems, prefer to spend most of their time drinking, smoking opium or sleeping, only occasionally slapping the rump of a lethargic bovine moving more slowly than they are. Few of their songs, though, are about drinking, smoking opium, sleeping or slapping rumps.
Topping out at 3,143 meters, Fan Si Pan has become the Mount Everest of Vietnam, with queues of yuppie trekkers in their latest TravelSmith "totally-packable" rainwear forming mountaineering traffic jams at base camps. Footprint Travel can arrange guided ascents.

Sapa itself is a somewhat bedraggled village meshing crumbling, mildewed French colonial architecture with the pencil-thin, brick-and-concrete mini-hotels that have become so ubiquitous in recent years all across Vietnam. This neglected, cultural mishmash would be an eyesore in any place less spectacularly scenic than Sapa. Because of its Shangri-la-like setting, Sapa actually seems quaint – a tranquil, restful village. Which is, of course, what the French originally intended the place to be. Amenities are limited unless you choose to stay at the Four Star Victoria Sapa, a sprawling alpine campus nestled discreetly into a hillside in the center of town.

The best times of the year to visit Sapa are in the spring and fall. Summers tend to be rainy and muddy, while winter temperatures can drop to the freezing mark (Sapa ushered in 2000 with snow!). Weather really does make a difference here, because the spectacular scenery is all but blotted out when there is cloud cover and rain. Ignore the other Nikon-toting tourists in the villages and get out into the countryside, where you just may still catch a glimpse into hill-tribe life of a couple of centuries ago.

Things to do in Sapa

Things to do in Sapa

Sapa is such a colourful town thanks to the H'mong and Dzao people from the local hill tribes who head into the town's market every day to trade their produce. There's a main market every Saturday when the place is packed but there's a lower key one every other day during the week. These people will have undergone no formal education but the arrival of foreigners has made them well aware of the value of money and many of the youngsters

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where to Visit in Sapa Vietnam

where to Visit in Sapa Vietnam

One of the shortest trekking is the Ham Rong mountain. In a two-three hour hike you can get to the top of this 2,000 yards (1750m) high mountain. From there you have an excellent view of the Sapa valley.

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Taking Photos in Sapa

Taking Photos in Sapa

While visiting the region of Sapa you will take many photos. Something you should remember is that local people are not here to entertain you. They are real people living their daily lives. Ask always for permission when taking portraits. Ethnic minority people are kind, and welcome foreign visitors, but may be offended if you take a picture without permission.

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Sapa Trekking

Sapa Trekking

Mount Phan Xi Pang, as locals call it, is a 3500 yard high peak (3143 m). During the trek you will have the chance to see how locals live. And even sleep in a local home. You will need special permits to do a home stay. For this reason I recommend reserving one of the trekking tours in Hanoi or Sapa.

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Sapa Restaurants

Sapa Restaurants

The offer of places to eat in Sapa is quite varied. It won't be difficult to find a place that suits your tastes. On the walk from your hotel to the market you will see many restaurants. Prices are somewhat more expensive than in the rest of Vietnam, but still a real bargain.

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Fansipan Mountain in Sapa

Fansipan Mountain in Sapa

Characteristics: Fansipan is branded "the Roof of Indochina" at the height of 3,143m; Fansipan is to be approved as one of the very few eco-tourist spots of Vietnam, with about 2,024 floral varieties and 327 faunal species.

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Bac Ha Sunday Market

Bac Ha Sunday Market

In the market of Bac Ha you will have the chance to see more ethnic minority groups than in Sapa, but the infrastructure is not as good. For this reason I recommend staying in Sapa, and leaving early in the morning. You can get to Bac Ha on a mini bus or on a 4 wheeled vehicle from Sapa. Many of the tours that you can reserve in Hanoi offer the possibility to visit the two towns and their markets.

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Coc Ly Market

Coc Ly Market

If you want to visit the most unspoiled market in the Sapa region, go to Coc Ly. This town lies 60 miles from Sapa (95km). It will take you two and a half hours to get to Coc Ly. The market takes place on Tuesdays mornings. You should leave Sapa at 7 am in order to get there around 10 am. In this market you will see people belonging to the following ethnic minorities: Black Dao

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Sapa Information

Sapa Information

Despite its commercialization during the last seven years, Sapa is still a must-see on any northern Vietnam itinerary. On a clear day you will treated to views of steeply terraced rice fields, towering verdant ridgelines, primitive mud-thatched villages, raging rivers and astounding waterfalls.

Read more

Love Market in Sapa

Love Market in Sapa

Sapa is also famous for its love market, which takes place on saturday evenings. The love market of Sapa used to be the place to find a partner to get married. With the tourism, the real love market does not take place anymore. Currently you can only see a representation of the love market. Do not miss it anyway if you are staying here a saturday night.

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