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Sapa - The Roof of Indochina

SaPa is the town stands at the head of a deep valley of magnificent rice terraces that are still worked today as they have been for centuries. Backdrops don’t get much more spectacular, with the highest peak in Indochina, Mount Fansipan, crowning the ragged ridge line high above town.

Mount Fansipan: Until 2016, those who wanted to conquer the 3,143m summit of Mount Fansipan had to trek for two or three days. Today, a 6km long cable car journey can whisk people to the top in just 15-minutes. Either way you reach it, the views on a clear day from the ‘Roof of Indochina’ are unmatched, affording the opportunity to survey the Hoang Lien National Park from its very highest vantage point.

Self guided trekking: A choice of day treks from Sapa town are possible under your own steam and without a guide. Their proximity to Sapa means the minority villages they pass through have become rather commercialised, but they are nonetheless worthy of exploration, particularly if you can rise early and beat the crowds. Cat Cat and Ta Phin are two of the most popular options.

Minority markets: A number of markets take place in the hills surrounding Sapa every week, but the most famous and one of the most visually striking is that in Bac Ha, a three hour journey from town.Every Sunday this sleepy little town bursts into life as hundreds of traders decked out in their finest traditional garb descend on the market area. Ethnic minorities represented here include the Dzao, Han, Xa Fang, Tay and Thai, to name just a few.

The market is a full-on assault on the senses. For the eyes, there is a riot of colour with the clash of each group’s traditional garb; for the ears, the sound of excited haggling in a myriad of languages and the laughter of groups boisterously raising glasses of rice wine; and for the nose, the scent of open fires over which pots of pho (noodle soup) simmer, sending hints of star anise into the air. Once the market shuts up shop and the day-tripping tourists head back to Sapa, Bac Ha returns to its sleepy Monday - Saturday existence, meaning this is a good place to head if the tourist-centric nature of Sapa isn’t for you.

Overnight explorations : Those wishing to strike out further into the landscape should opt for an overnight trek. Wander through the rice terraces, bathe in waterfall plunge pools and sleep in a traditional family home. Treks range in difficulty, and there is an option for people of all abilities and opportunities to stay in a Black H’mong, Red Dao or other minority village and experience traditional community life and farming firsthand.

Eco-Lodges :It’s also possible to stay outside the tourist hub of Sapa town in more modern comfort at the mountain-top Topas Ecolodge an hour’s drive away. Here, individual bungalows with private balconies circle two hills tops overlooking verdant valleys. Rice terraces come right up to the lodge itself meaning you’re almost as likely to brush shoulders with a Red Dao farmer as another guest. Treks are also on offer in this area meaning you’ll be further away from the crowds.

Source: vietnamtourism

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