Vietnam, Sapa – Hiking and Rice and Everything Nice [Part I]

9 Aug

We left Hanoi on a midnight train to Lao Cai* (Okay, so the train actually left at 20:30…but when the two men are singing Journey, of which the midnight trains goes anywhere, and the two girls are singing Gladys Knight, of which the midnight train goes to Georgia, then 20:30 seems a little too specific),

and traveled overnight to find ourselves in the picturesque town of Sapa, located near the Chinese border.

Arriving in Sapa felt like entering a whole new world (“Don’t you dare close your eyes!”), especially after our day of beautiful-chaos in Hanoi.  Unlike the capital city, Sapa is quiet, tiny, and surrounded by rich, green mountains, etched with towering rice terraces.

Even more charming still, is Sapa’s beautiful population of ethnic minorities: the H’mong, Dao, Tay, Giay, Muong, Thai, Hoa and Xa Pho.

Locals may follow you around in hopes of selling handmade trinkets, so make sure to tell them kindly if you are not interested.

We stayed in town only long enough to meet our guide, Dat**, and after a quick breakfast, we were off on a hike to Dat’s home, where we would be staying our first night.

(Below, Dat weaving me a crown made of fern & walking besides G the giant)

(To break up the monotony of the incredible views, we had ourselves a contest to see who could look the worst in the photo below.  The fern tiaras gave us ladies a chance at victory, but thankfully the bucket hats and dopey smiles brought home the championship for the guys.)

Even though our hike lasted only 4 hours, I still managed to snap over 200 pictures.  It really took some willpower not to post them all.

We walked through ride paddies, crossed rivers…

not to mention, fought off rain with fashionable ponchos…

and when we finally reached Dat’s home, we were both exhausted and amazed by all the beauty we encountered…

…Aaaand then we lost power…

More adventures in Sapa – to be continued.


*We took the Sapaly Express train from Hanoi and bought first class tickets to ensure that we would get beds with padded mattresses.  The train booking was organized through Dat, our tour guide (see below for additional information).  Dat also made sure there was a car waiting for us at Lao Cai, to bring us to Sapa.

**If you are interested in a tailored tour of Sapa on a shoestring, contact Dat at  Dat was reliable, responsive, and extremely kind.  He lead/organized a beautiful 3-day hiking tour of Sapa, which we all enjoyed tremendously. Staying at his house, Heavenly Homestay, was a fantastic experience and highly recommended.  (Although you shouldn’t go expecting the Ritz. Da.)

11 Responses to “Vietnam, Sapa – Hiking and Rice and Everything Nice [Part I]”

  1. swimwithnic at 2:57 am #

    the rice terraces are beautiful!

  2. risarenay at 6:07 pm #

    Love the pictures, and the commentary is hysterical! Hopefully I can do the same trip next year, Dat sounds like a great guide! Thanks for the great blog, I can’t wait to read more!

  3. Jacqui at 1:44 pm #

    hi! i came across your blog whlist searching for recommended tour guides in sapa – just wondering what was the weather like? (i’m leaving in a couple of weeks) and how much did the 3 day trek/homestay with dat cost you? thanks!

    • akonrad at 10:59 pm #

      Hi Jacqui, I went to Sapa in early June and the weather was EXTREMELY hot (over 90F/32C during the day), but cooled off at night (pack a scarf and light sweater). I’m not sure what the weather is like now, but you can easily ask your tour guide or hotel representative (Sapa gets cold during the year). As for the tour, it cost us $100 USD per person for 3 days (tour + food included), and we also bought round-trip train tickets through our tour guide for $80 per person.

      • Jacqui at 3:10 pm #

        thanks a lot, really looking forward to it!

  4. Carol at 11:47 am #

    Hi Ayelet! Read your blog and enjoyed reading it and loved your pictures. I’m planning to do a Sapa-trekking within a couple of weeks. I’m just wondering, did you spend 2 nights at Dat’s place or just 1 night? Thanks

    • akonrad at 12:21 pm #

      Hello Carol – thank you so much for the bloggy compliments and I sorry for leaving you hanging mid-trip (too much work and too few hours in the day!). Luckily, you’ll be able to experience it all firsthand (it’s magical)! We stayed at Dat’s for 1 night and then moved to the awesome hotel, Sapa Rooms Boutique Hotel ( for the following night. Dat dropped us off at the hotel after a full day of hiking and picked us up the next morning for another day of exploration. (We could have chosen to stay at another homestay, but we decided to indulge ourselves!) Let me know if you have any more qs.

      • Carol at 6:41 pm #

        Hi Ayelet, thanks for your detailed information. We will probably stay 2 nights in Dat’s Heavenly Home stay and looking forward to it.

      • Jacqui at 11:05 pm #

        Hi Carol, I’d be interested to know how much Dat will quote you for the 2 nights at his place when you go? Thanks.


  1. Travel Thursday – Padi at Sapa « Anthonli PhotoBlog -

    […] Vietnam, Sapa – Hiking and Rice and Everything Nice [Part I] ( […]

  2. Vietnam, Sapa – Hiking and Rice and Everything Nice [Part III] « As Far As I Can Tell -

    […] details about transportation, tour guide and accommodation, see earlier posts about our trip here: PART I and PART […]

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