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One of my best memories of travelling in Vietnam was hiking through Sapa. The region has a beautiful landscape where rice terraces go on forever and cascading mountains layer in the background. I can see why Sapa is so attractive to hikers from all over as there are many trails zigzag through the staggered rice terraces. And it should be part of anyone’s Vietnam itinerary!
Why Sapa is Great for a Solo Female Traveller
Solo female travellers can easily get to Sapa via overnight train from Hanoi. The journey is safe as you will not be travelling alone on the train. Many (solo) travellers make their way to Sapa via train as it is the most reliable option.
The journey to Sapa is quite simple. Visit one of the many tour companies in Hanoi Old Quarter, and they can set you up with train tickets to Lào Cai (a town where you must transfer), connecting bus from Lào Cai to your Sapa accommodation and all the transportation in reverse. Or you can sign up for a bigger tour like what we did.
The best part about being on the tour was how organized everything was, especially with all the transfers in between. Our primary contact with our tour company took us to the train station and showed us which platform to go to and which berths were ours for the night. On the way back from Sapa, someone holding a sign with my name on it and waited on the platform just as we step off the train. How did he know which cabin we were on and therefore, which door that we would come out of? We were truly impressed with all the transfers between the train and our hotel. Definitely a big bonus for any solo female traveller.
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What to do in Sapa
Day One of Tour
When we arrived at Sapa, we immediately had a chance to freshen up from our overnight train ride. And we even had a big breakfast to prepare ourselves for the hike.
On the first day of our Sapa trekking tour, we hiked to Cat Cat Village, which is just 3km south of Sapa. The guided trek was relatively easy as it starts off with a descent down a shallow hill. Despite the misty weather, the hike is beautiful as you can see rice fields and traditional H’Mong (ethnic minority) homes along the way. The guided path leads you to small farms, a waterfall and a community centre where there are cultural dance performances by the villagers. Some of the H’Mong homes are set up as shops as well where you can purchase local handicrafts made by the people living there.
After a delightful day of hiking and overnight train experience, we were ready to relax at our accommodation. The remaining afternoon and evening was our time to relax and to do anything else we want in Sapa.
Day Two of Tour
The second day of hiking was all about hiking to Y Linh Ho, where it is inhabited by the H’Mong minority group. The trek was a bit more difficult due to the muddy paths which were a result of a storm from the night before. But we did have more luck in terms of weather; it was sunny skies for the entire day.
As we trekked through the largest farmland in the region, there were many picturesque spots for photo opportunities. Our group of eight were joined by small H’Mong women in traditional clothing. These small, tiny women helped us along the muddy paths and guided us for most of the day. Our little H’mong lady is the cutest little woman you will ever meet.
The trek included lunch in Ta Van Village. It was during lunch where we had a set meal and find out why the H’Mong women helped us. They carried a wicker basket full of handicraft for sale on their back the entire time. I felt somewhat obligated to buy a little something from the sweet little lady. And so I did. I gave her a bit more money as a tip as well.
After the quick lunch, we continue to trek and make our way further down the rice terraces. At this point, we hiked for the majority of the day, and most of us were quite tired. It was great to hear that there was a minibus waiting for us to take us back to Sapa town. Everything was organized really well with our Sapa tour package.
Day Three of Tour
We stayed an extra day because we wanted to visit Mount Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina. You can either do a multi-day hike up the highest peak or take the new cable car ride, which was our choice. However, the weather didn’t cooperate that day. We had to forgo seeing the majestic mountain and hide out in a coffee shop instead. If you are lucky to have a clear sunny day, definitely head up to the peak and take in the breathtaking views.
That evening, we made our way back to Lào Cai via a minibus and the dark, windy road to catch our overnight train back to Hanoi.
There are many tours around Sapa. Try one of these tours below:
What to Eat in Sapa
Sapa was a part of a package tour, which means a lot of our meals were accounted for. Most meals included pumpkin soup, stir-fried duck with vegetables, and stir-fried mixed vegetables.
But we did have a few opportunities to find some places to eat on our own.
While there are many restaurants on Mường Hoa Street and Cầu Mây Street, we found a few places facing the park that was a bit closer to our hotel. We tried Le Gecko Restaurant, and it didn’t disappoint. The menu has Vietnamese food and international cuisine. We saw someone ordered a stone-baked pizza and it looked appetizing. So we decided on pizza and spring rolls.
Perhaps it was the high altitude and cold temperature, hotpot seemed like the perfect answer to our hungry stomachs. We had beef hotpot at Moment Romantic Restaurant. It was one of the best hotpots I’ve ever had.
The weather was a bit unpredictable in Sapa during the time we were there. There was a day where we missed Mount Fansipan, and we ended up hiding in Dao Coffee and had cafe trung (egg coffee). The cafe was the perfect little place to hide from the rain.
Along with some of the types of northern Vietnamese cuisine recommended in the Hanoi guide, Sapa is famous for some unique treats. We didn’t have a chance to try it out but maybe you will.
Bamboo sticky rice
Thắng cổ (buffalo, pork or horse meat soup); a traditional dish of Hmong people
Thịt heo cặp nách Sapa (specialty pork in the region)
Pau Play Day Cake (glutinous rice and green peas)
Where to Stay in Sapa
Our tour included a three-star hotel in the centre of Sapa. The Golden Sun Sapa Hotel is centrally located and was our meeting spot for all the hiking tours.
But for whatever reasons, they upgraded us to a four-star hotel nearby called Freesia Hotel. It is a newly renovated hotel. It has an indoor pool, big spacious rooms and a view of the lake.
Our tour only included two nights at Sapa, as mentioned in the itinerary. We decided to stay an extra day and checked ourselves into Sapa Highland Resort & Spa. The hotel is located on a hill, 300 meters from the centre of the town. The hotel is newly renovated as well (there seems to be a lot of newer hotels popping up everywhere in Sapa). Our room was spacious, and the bathroom was big. And not to mention the mountain view!
There are plenty of accommodations in Sapa to choose from. The ones we picked are around $40-70USD a night. There are more affordable options if you are on a budget, like a homestay. And if you want to splurge, check out Topas Ecolodge.
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