In 2010, before we had kids, we visited Sapa in Vietnam. Sapa is a hill station town in Northern Vietnam near the Chinese border with spetacular rice terraces and trekking is a must do, if you visit this region. The scenary of the Tonkinese Alps where Montagnard hill tribes have lived for centuries is beautiful. The town of Sapa is colorful and the different hill tribes are selling tobacco, trekking clothes and souvenir crafts.
Most people visit Sapa to do trekking. We took the night train from Hanoi to Sapa, 9 hours. My husband slept the whole night. I did not sleep at all. I was in the upper berth in our compartment lying awake listening to all the sounds from the whisle of the train to the engine.
I was exhausted when we arrived in Sapa and I was dreaming about a bed and a hotel room. We had not booked a hotel which was a mistake. Sapa is one of Vietnams top tourist destination and during the dry months the town can be crowded. We visited in may during the dry season and walked the streets of Sapa trying to find a room for sometime. At last we found a room, not the kind of room I had dreamed about, but it would have to do being our only option. We booked the room for 2 nights, realising that I was not fit for trekking that day.
We spend the first day in the city of Sapa. I was very pleased that we did not have to do trekking as I was tired from not sleeping in the train. We took our time exploring the city and all the different small shops. We had dinner in a really cosy restaurant and then we went to bed early.
The next day we had booked a tour just the 2 of us and a guide. We were driven in a pick up truck to the most beautiful rice terraces I have ever seen. Then we walked for 6 hours on muddy paths in amazing scenary. We walked through a lot of tiny tribal villages with locals living their everyday life and children playing and women working in the fields carrying their baby on their back in a scarf. We ended our trekking at the 100m high Thac Bac waterfall. It was absolutely spectacular. I have to say that I was surprised about how much the mountain terrain challenged us with steep rocky inclines, uneven slopes, slippery mud patches and uneven gravel. We managed, but I would recommend that you do the trekking wearing trekking boats and not sneakers.
It was one of the best trekking tours combining beautiful scenary with interaction with the local hill tribes. Perfect! A must do if you visit Vietnam.
- Sapa can be very rainy and muddy during the rainy season. The best time to visit is from March to May and from September to mid-December. Bring a poncho for the rain because it rains a lot and the trekking is more fun being dry than soaking wet.
- If you plan to do the trekking with kids be aware that the kids have to be big enough to walk or small enough to be in a baby carrier. It is impossible to bring a stroller walking on the muddy paths between the rice fields and walking up and down stairs through small tribal villages.
- Be sure to wear proper footwear. Do not do the trekking in flip flops.
- Every saturday there is a main market in Sapa, where the local hill tribes sell their handicraft.
- Some villages will have pay stations at the entrance. You will need to show a permit, which is bought in advance at the tourist information center in town. If you don’t have it upon arrival, you’ll need to go back to town to buy one. If you’re with a trekking tour, it’s likely this is already covered in the fee. Remember to ask your tour agency or tour guide.
- Consider to do some miles of the trekking on a motorbike if you bring smaller children not able to walk for miles and miles.
- I would not recommend a 1 day tour from Hanoi to Sapa. They take you in a bus or by the train during the night and you arrive in the morning, have a breakfast or early lunch in Sapa and then off to trekking i he rice fields. Do not do it. It is a long journey especially with kids. You will need 1 night in Sapa before you do the trekking.