Located in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwestern Vietnam, Sapa is by far one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. It is well worth the long journey from Hanoi and was the highlight of our Vietnam-Thailand trip. Sapa is the home of five ethnic minorities, include the H'mong, a formerly nomadic people forced to settle. Still suffering from overt oppression, the H'mong struggle to meet basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. As tourism in the region increases though, some have been become trekking guides, offering both hiking and cultural experiences. Our experience with one such eco-tourism group, Ethos-Spirit of Community, was truly amazing and we highly recommend working with them specifically.
Day One (1/2 Day Hike): Our H'mong guide, My (photo right), took us through the rice terraces just outside the town of Sapa. Bring your camera because you will not be able to get enough photos of this spectacular countryside. My is a particularly lovely guide. Kind, smart, witty, and seemingly never tired.
Day Two (Full Day, Hike and H'mong Experience): This particular day was unforgettable. It's really hard to describe just how much of a lasting impression this day had on our family. If you do nothing else in Sapa, and are able to hike, be sure to spend the day with the H'mong.
The day starts with a trip to the local markets where My, our guide, purchased all the food necessary to cook lunch. Carrying this on her back, we began our trek out of town and through the rice terraces.
Next, we had prepared lunch together with a H'mong family in a traditional dirt floor hut. The meal that My carried and cooked ended up feeding not only us, the H'mong family, but also that same family - for a week.
After the delicious lunch, we started the more challenging hike up to the top of a ridge with 360 degree panoramic views.
Be sure to read our blog post for a more detailed description of this amazing day and the eco-tourism company that employs My.
Where We Stayed
Aira Boutique Sapa Hotel: Compared to the villages we visited during our hikes, Aira Boutique was embarrassingly opulent in comparison. That being said, the staff at this little hotel were quite lovely. A nice restaurant is on the ground floor and a large breakfast is included with your stay. (Teens like the milkshakes [photo below]). Rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable. Our two rooms connected via a private outdoor balcony. The best part are the amazing views from the bedrooms. $180/night (2 room, suite).
Where We Ate
Hill Station: Farm to table cuisine; authentic local ethnic food. We enjoyed the local-style cuisine. It was unique and gave us a taste of the regional food. They also had a very good IPA on tap
Aira Sapa Restaurant & Bar: Located in the hotel we stayed, our teens enjoyed a break from Vietnamese food and had western meals while we enjoyed chicken curry.
Photo (right) is a hut-made Hmong meal we made with My, our guide.