The easiest way to get to Sapa is to take the train from Hanoi. Most people opt to take the night trains because it’s a long trip and sleeping on the train maximizes your time. To get to Sapa from Hanoi you must book the train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Lao Cai serves as the hub for all tourists visiting Sapa. Lao Cai is actually 45 minutes from Sapa so you must take a bus or motor bike from the station into town. Some of the fancier hotels will take care of booking this transportation for you, but if you’re traveling on a budget. You can look for your own ride. That’s easy enough to do as there will be many buses waiting for lot of tourists disembarking the train. Generally a bus ride up the mountain to the center of town will run you between USD2 to USD4. Try using your negotiating skills to get the best rate. Most of these buses will actually be vans. Get a group together because the vans won’t leave until they’re full.
Park at the center of the town proper
Tourist Information Center
Fresh off the Hanoi night train at 6:30am, we boarded a squeezy bus for an hour ride to Sapa in Northwest Vietnam. Arriving in Sapa, we were greeted by dozens of Hmong and Dzao tribe ladies and kids, dressed from head to toe in their traditional clothing. Little were we to know at the time, these people are the most affectionate and charming of any we’ve met.
Hmong (local minority)
Visiting Sapa in summer, you can feel the climate of four seasons in one day. In the morning and afternoon, it is cool like the weather of spring and autumn. At noon, it is as sunny and cloudless as the weather of summer. And it is cold in the evening. With no advance warning of a thunderstorm short and heavy rains may come at noon on any summer day.
This place in the highlands of northwest Vietnam will reminds you of Banaue in the Philippines, but with loads of costumed ethnic minority people.
Sapa rice terraces
Before the French came, Sapa was home to several ethnic minorities, and now that the French are gone — they’re still there. Dzao or Red Hmong, and particularly Black Hmong have adapted to the tourist trade with considerable enthusiasm.
Here you can come into close contact with a multitude of ethnic minorities. Most of them are the Black Hmong, so named partly because their dress is black, with silver jewelry, but mostly because of their black headgear. The Red Hmong or Dzao dress in black as well, but the women wrap up their hair in a red scarf.
Market at the Park during day time
Market at the Park during night time
You’ll see several hill-tribe women selling textiles and tribal jewelry along the main tourist road of Sapa and around the towns square where the church is located. You’ll also find several stalls that are flooded with the same items in the upper part of the market.
Lake in the town proper
Sapa is an absolute paradise that you surely cannot miss visiting when you are in Vietnam. It remains an attractive destination for international and local tourists. If Vietnam wants to preserve the uniqueness and cultures of its ethnic minorities, it will need to responsibly manage the tourism boom in places like Sapa.