How to travel Sapa on your own
Sa Pa, the well know tourist destination in the northern part of Vietnam. The primary reason that the tourists visit here is to meet the ethnic tribes of this area and understand there daily lifestyle. Also to spend a night drinking rice wine with them. But this comes at a cost. Tourists think traveling to Sa Pa on their own is a tough job, so they book tours with the tour companies that charges very high price and makes merry. Recently I have been to Sa Pa on my own. So, here is a small guide for backpackers on how to travel Sa Pa on your own.
How to reach Sa Pa from Hanoi?
Sa Pa is located 370 kms to the north of Hanoi. The journey can be done by two ways. Either by train or by bus. If you travel by train, your journey has to be broken up in two parts, as there is no direct train to Sa Pa. Firstly, you need to travel to Lao Cai by train and from Lao Cai you need to either take a public bus or taxi to Sa Pa. There are atleast four night trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai. There are no day trains. If you take a 9.45 pm train in Hanoi, you would reach Lao Cai around 5.30 am in the morning the next day. If you prefer traveling by bus, you can take a tourist bus from Hanoi to Sa Pa, the bus stops at Lao Cai to pick up other passengers. It is only a 45 minute ride from Lao Cai to Sapa.
What villages to visit?
There are three villages that you can walk to during your visit to Sa Pa.
1. Cat Cat Village : It is around just around 4 kms from the Sa Pa town. Just follow the daily market of the Sa Pa town, as you walk through the market at the other end is the road that takes you towards the Cat Cat village. There is small entrance fees that you need to pay at the ticket office to visit the Cat Cat village. After you pass 900 meters from the ticket station, there is a way to go down into the Cat Cat village on your left. After climbing down a few steps you will pass through the traditional handicraft village where handicrafts are made in traditional ways. The there is a series of steep steps that you need to climb up and down, to reach the Si bridge from where you can watch the beautiful Tien Sa waterfall. There are cultural dances which are performed by the Hmong tribes. There you can meet the Hmong tribes and understand about there lifestyle. Then to get out the village take the other road which is on the opposite side of the Si bridge. After a short walk you will reach the A Lu bridge, from where you can get to the Sa Pa village. If you are tired by now, you can here a moto which will drop you at your hotel for a couple of dollars.
2. Lao Chai and Ta Van Villages : Lao Chai(not to be confused with Lao Cai) is located 7 kilometers form Sa Pa and Ta Van is located 5 kilometers from Sa Pa town. On your way you get the opportunity to see some stunning landscapes. The trek is of medium level and do remember to wear a good pair of shoes. You see see the Black H’mong and Red Dzao minority groups here. Here you can do a homestay with the minority. Most of these minority can speak English as this village has become a hot spot for tourists.