General Information About Sapa
Sapa is located in Lao Cai. The town is situated at 1500 meters above sea level. Northern Vietnam was previously known as Tonkin, and the Sapa area was named “Tonkinese Alps” by the French.
The area was discovered by Europeans when a Jesuit missionary visited Sa Pa in 1918. French colonists were attracted by the climate and scenery, and in 1932 began developing the town as a health resort. After moving minorities from the town, they built a church , some hotels, an aerodrome by Tram Ton Pass, tennis courts, the hydro-electric power station in Cat Cat village and over 200 villas in town and the surrounding area, which have since been abandoned or destroyed. They also established road links with Lao Cai and Lai Chau. The road was fixed in 1969 by the Chinese.
Since 1945, Sapa has been governed by the Vietnamese political system. In early 1979, there was an armed assault on Sapa which destroyed most of the buildings. Due to Vietnamese resistance this conflict lasted less than two weeks. Only a few of the original French buildings remain intact. Major population centres such as Lao Cai were razed to the ground. The ruins of the French villas are prominent on the route from Sapa to Sin Chai village.
Sapa is the natural starting point for an unique experience in the mountainous area, which includes the Hoang Lien mountain range, Vietnam's highest peak of Fan Si Pan (3143m) and 5 different hill-tribes, each one colourful, distinct, and with its own language and cultural values. Some of the villages, especially the more remote ones, are still largely untouched by modern ways of life, and staying overnight privately offers an unusual insight into an otherwise unknown aspect of life in Vietnam.
Topas guests can experience Sapa and its surrounds at whatever pace they choose. Whether it's the physical challenge of trekking to the summit of Fan Si Pan, a half or full day trek in and around the Sapa valley or to experience the life in a remote minority village that appeals, Topas can organise a specially designed trip.
The mean annual temperature in Sapa is 15.4 °C (59.7 °F) with a maximum of 29.4 °C (84.9 °F) in July and a maximum of -3.0 °C (-26.6 °F) in December. The coolest months are December to February and snow sometimes falls for 1-3 days. In March 2011, around 10 cm's of snow fell unexpectedly in Sapa area so if visiting the area from December to March be prepared for cold weather!
Frosts are frequent during the winter and mist shrouds the Fan Si Pan ridge and Sapa town. Foggy days are common, with an average of 137 per year.
The mean annual rainfall is 2763mm, with a high of 4723mm and a low of 2964mm . The rainy season is between May and September. Humidity ranges from 75-91% with an average of 87%.
Sapa - fairy home of ethnic minorities
There is nowhere in Vietnam can tourists easily meet the local ethnic minorities like in Sapa. The district is the home of a great diversity of ethnic people, including five main groups of Hmong, Yao, Tay, Zay and Xa Pho. They do not live in center area but in hamlets scattering on the valleys throughout Sapa District. Actually, not until the 20th century did a majority of the ethnic people changed to sedentary lifestyle with intensive farming method on sloping terraces, instead of slash-and-burn culture like in the past. Town of Sapa is where ethnic minority people gather, trade or sell their farming products such as rice, corn, fruits, as well as handicrafts and souvenirs to tourists. There is one interesting fact about ethnic minority people in Sapa that besides their dialects, many of them, especially small children, can speak English pretty well with clear pronunciation.
Spending time visiting ethnic minorities’ villages, observing their daily’s activities or even living homestay, in order to understand more about their culture is now the top priority of visitors, especially international ones. A trip to Sapa would definitely more meaningful with participatory activities, such as learning to make handicrafts or helping the local with farm work! In case time does not allow, you can always hire a local guide for your trekking routes. Chances are these boys and girls will tell you lovely stories about their traditions, their lives or even ask you to join their family activities.
Sapa- challenging for mountainous trekking
Sapa is voted to be the best trekking spot in Vietnam, by both natives and foreigners. The whole district is dominated by The Hoang Lien Son mountain range, which also includes Mt. Fan Si Pan- the highest peak in Vietnam and the entire Indochina peninsula with the height of 3143m. This mount is not only a tough challenge to trekking enthusiasts but also an opportunity to witness the splendid mountainous vista.
The scenery of the Sapa region represents a harmonious relationship between the minority people and nature, which can be seen perceptibly in the paddy fields carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the Hoang Lien Mountains. It was the elements wearing away the underlying rock over thousands of years that created this impressive physical landscape.
The geographical location of the area makes it a truly unique place for a rich variety of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects, some of them can only be found in northwestern Vietnam.
Sapa- thunderstruck local food
Sapa’s specialties are another reason attracting more and more tourists travelling to this town. A wide range of sub-tropical vegetables such as white cauliflower, red beet, or chayote are planted here. There are dishes that will be a must to enjoy for every visitor - boiled chayote consumed with sesame or “lon cap nach”- pig carried under armpit, which are home pigs but are raised in the field or forest.
The cool weather of the region makes barbecued meat and fish with mushroom and vegetables the most preferred street foods in Sapa. People grill corn, sweet potatoes, dumpling, bamboo-tube rice, or even eggs as well. Nevertheless, tourists can try many other local foods like purple sticky rice or “thang co”- horse meat right in Sapa market. More surprisingly, Western restaurants, from Italian to French ones, can also be found around the center of Sapa, at a very reasonable price.
How to get there?
Visitors can choose to go to Sapa by train or car, but train is more advisable because of the long and bumpy road.
Most tourists arrive in Lao Cai, the province to which Sapa belongs, by train (read more about train from Hanoi to Sapa) and it is definitely an impressive ride. The train leaves Hanoi train station in the evening and arrives in Lao Cai train station in early morning. From Lao Cai train station to Sapa is another hour bus ride, which gives your eyes a massage with the endless blue sky and colourful terraced paddy field. The road is curved around the mountain and you will just go from one surprise to another. The further you go, the closer you are to the sky and to nature.
Sapa is definitely a place to remember. And maybe to return as well!
Nightlife in Sapa
Sa Pa is a beautiful, mountainous town in northern Vietnam along the border with China. It has long been a famous destination to tourists from all over the world to Vietnam. Sa Pa’s cool weather, breathtaking landscapes, cultural diversify have enchanted a great number of tourists and built up its fame as as a city in fog, a paradise on the mountain, a place where the earth meets the sky. One interesting experience in Sa Pa that tourists can never forget is its nightlife.
In daytime, Sa Pa is beautiful; its night scenery is also extremely gorgeous. The mountainous city is lit up with attractive, colorful light which creates an extraordinary fanciful sight.
At night Sa Pa is still very lively. Streets with very romantic names like Cầu Mây, Mường Hoa… is crowded with foreign tourists. They leisurely walk on sloping streets, contemplate souvenir shops and take photos.
Tourists often concentrate in the Stone church area where there are a lot of grilled restaurants and souvenir shops. After wandering about the streets, how comfortable it is to enjoy delicious grilled foods such as sweet potato, egg, bird, pork, sugar cane, etc a in the cold weather of Sa Pa’s night. Souvenir shops offer various local specialties which can be bought as presents for your beloved such as ethnic crafts especially needle work on batik fabric ranging from traditional costumes and accessories, H’mong blanket, raw embroidery works, skirts, men blouses, hats…
Visitors who are keen on exploring traditional cultures will be lured by the Love market in Sa Pa. Ethnic minorities put on their most colorful costumes and head to Sa Pa's market on Saturday. The girls hide in the dark shadows and sing love songs to attract the boys, who try to find where the songs come from. If they are well matched, they disappear into the forest for three days. Some of them get married after that.
Let come and experience Sa Pa’s nightlife yourself.