Summer Vacation - Part 2 - Sapa

After acclimating to the city life common to much of South East Asia, we decided to slow things down a bit and head to the countryside.  We flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and then took an overnight train to Sa Pa.
Contrary to this photo, the train was quite comfortable. The A/C alone made the private cabins worth the extra fare.
We wanted to visit Sa Pa for it's slower pace, cooler temperatures, and famed terraced mountainsides.  Sa Pa (map) is located in Northern Vietnam and it is just a few kilometers from the Chinese border town of Hekou. After an early morning van ride that spent an hour navigating the nauseating hilly countryside, we arrived to the beautiful  Cat Cat hotel.  Excited at the slower pace we were already experiencing, we decided it would be safe to rent mopeds and better explore the region.
Road Warrior

First, we visited one of the nearby villages of Ta Phin.  This village is home to the Red Dao people that still live off of the land in very much the same way that their ancestors did back in the 18th century.  While they have been exposed to much of the discoveries of the Western world, they still thrive using herbal medicines and spiritual rituals that have been cherished and handed down through the generations.  They were always very happy to see their foreign guests and loved to compare their lives with our own (How big is your family? How many babies do you have? How old were you when you got married?).
One of the newer members of the Red Dao ethnic minority.
Stream bordered by terraces in Ta Phin.

From Ta Phin we headed to the top of the nearby mountains.  We went in search of views from the summit and to hopefully see some of the many waterfalls of the region.
Riding mopeds in the rain was worth it for waterfalls like these.
The wishing gong at the summit of Hoang Lien National Park.
The Golden Shower Love Waterfall... no seriously, that's its name.
Sa Pa Wildlife.  This guy's wings were about 6" tall.

Summit Pass view towards China.

We had been told that one of the best ways to see the terraces was to hike down to one of the Hmong villages with the help of a local guide.  We made the 8 mile trek with the help of a few Hmong women and ended the trek with a cold beer and lunch next to the river.
One of our Hmong guides. She made awesome figures out of bamboo strips.

It was a popular trek.  Fortunately the humidity and record temps kept the crowds down from normal.

Valley views like these made the tough hike worth it.

Village dinner

Well earned by the end of the hike.

Up to this point of the trip, Sa Pa was definitely our favorite part of Vietnam.  It turned out to be one of the highlights of the vacation too.  We still got to visit Hanoi, Laos and Ha Long Bay, but we'll save those highlights for next post.


  1. Looks like you enjoyed everything Vietnam had to offer guys! How's life down unda' treatin' ya?

  2. Hard to beat Vietnam noodles and beer....makes me want to go back.