We landed in Hanoi from Hoi An, and the very next morning we headed out bright and early on bus to Sapa. After being in hot, tropical weather for many months, the mountains were calling us! The journey to Sapa got progressively more mountainous, cold, and damp as we ascended. The bus ride was a little unsettling, as we were flying around tight corners and whizzing past semis with only a couple of inches of clearance. On our opposite side were giant cliffs without any guard rails. From the minute we safely stepped off the bus, we knew we were in a new kind of place - authentic and a little wild!
The frigid air had us frantically digging to the bottom of our backpacks finding the pants and long sleeves we haven't needed too often. It was sort of entertaining each day to see what kind of awkwardly layered outfit we would come up with as an attempt to cope to the unfamiliar cold air. Layers of fog would come into town and in the blink of an eye be gone. The walls, our clothes, and our bed were constantly damp. Luckily, Sapa is built on steep hills, so we'd warm up quickly each time we ventured out.
Being vegetarians, food was one of our biggest struggles in Sapa. However, even locals expressed distaste for the local options. On our first night out, we saw "snake wine" on the menu. We scanned the restaurant and noticed a large jar of liquid with a 6-10 foot snake wrapped up inside - presumably fermenting. Next, we saw "cat wine" which we quickly began making strong assumptions about what that was. Fortunately, this is wine made from a local "cat" apple. This hot beverage became our staple to warm up!
Other than partaking in a trek, mingling with the hill tribe women, and enjoying the mountain views, there isn't a whole lot to do in Sapa. We were there for eight nights, which seemed like a long time compared to most travelers. But we were working on a new project for Jipsē and enjoying the peace and quiet!
where to stay
Sapa Garden Hotel - Convenient location as it is just a short walk into town. What we loved most about this hotel was the comfort and size of the rooms. The staff can be a little over the top with their service, but they are always willing to help ensure you have the best trip possible. The hotel is kept very clean and breakfast is included!
what to do
Ethos Spirit - We did a trek with Ker, a H'Mong guide, to her village where we spent the day learning about hemp production, indigo dyeing, and embroidery. We were lucky enough to spend time with her welcoming family and see how they lived day to day. This was an unforgettable experience that we will always remember. Ethos has many different types of treks and cultural experiences available. Best of all, they are an ethical tour company that gives back to the hill tribes in a variety of ways. The founders, Phil and Hoa, have such a warming presence and are wonderful to spend an afternoon chatting with!
Cong Caphe - Have a frozen coconut coffee here! No questions asked.