a VirtualTourist member from Melbourne
Anyone stayed at the Cat Cat View Hotel in Sapa? Or done a 3-4 day trek around the area, any comment welcome and if you're in Melbourne can be repaid in beer.
No really significant complaints.
If you're going to Sa Pa you'll need to know:
SA PA ARRANGEMENTS
Pre-book your Ha Noi hotel AND Ha Long Cruise before you arrive in Ha Noi.
There are two good cruise companies that both OWN boats and SELL direct to passengers: Emeraude and www.tropical-sails.com >.
Assume that you book your hotel and cruise from your home country, on arrival you check in to your hotel, confirm your cruise ESPECIALLY YOUR TIME OF RETURN then raid an ATM and head on over to 120 La Duan (1 kilometre from Hoan Kiem Lake) and buy your own ticket from the station. YOU WANT TO LEAVE FOR LAO CAI ON THE EVENING ON THE DAY YOU RETURN FROM HLB.
RAIL: HA NOI - LAO CAI
The Ha Noi-Lao Cai tourist trains run nightly, departing from Ha Noi Train Station B (behind 120 Le Duan Street). The following trains from Ha Noi to Lao Cai (SP1, LC1, LC3; AM: LC5) and from Lao Cai to Ha Noi (PM: SP2, LC2, LC4; AM: LC 6) daily. The daytime trainsets offer only hard seats, whereas Travellers enjoy soft-sleepers, Air-conditioned, four-berth cabins on the night trains.
Victoria Express train is the best in terms of comfort and services from Ha Noi to Lao Cai, Victoria Hotel’s "Orient Express" train offers one restaurant and two luxury sleeping carriages, all with air-conditioning. This is part of the normal run (LC5 and LC6) between Ha Noi and Lao Cai.
Tulico train offers comfortable, air-conditioned soft sleepers. While this is not a luxurious train, it offers good alternative transportation to Sa Pa from Ha Noi. It has soft sleepers, A/C and four-berth cabins. You are provided with one bottle of water, a small snack and a napkin.
In the LC5 and LC 6, there are Victoria Cabins, Tulico Cabins, Friendly Cabins, and Ratraco Cabins. All of these are alternatives for Travellers to Sa Pa from Ha Noi. Ratraco train is one of the best trains to Sa Pa with wooden cabins.
Friendly train, like the Tulico train, is not a separate train, but offers soft sleepers, A/C and clean four-berth cabins in 2 carriages which go with local trains (LC5 and LC6) between Ha Noi and Lao Cai. . You are provided with one bottle of water, a small snack and a napkin.
To serve tourist requirements, the Royal Train is also part of a regular train with 2 carriages in SP1 and SP2 which offers A/ C, soft-sleepers and clean four-berth cabins.
LAO CAI – SA PA TRANSFER
The Ha Noi - Lao Cai train stops at Lao Cai Station, some 40 kilometres from Sa Pa and stops at Sa Pa's main Post Office (Buu Dien). Each way cost about VND25,000-30,000.
The tourist bus back to Lao Cai leaves from outside Sa Pa's church, but it usually will pick you up at your hotel - inquire with the hotel staff for getting a bus ticket back to Lao Cai Station.
Class of Service / Fare
[AC soft sleeper - 4 berths] _ USD$21
[AC soft sleeper - 4 berths] _ USD$21
[AC soft sleeper - 4 berths] _ USD$23
[AC soft sleeper - 2 berths – 1 cabin only] _ USD$50
[First class with wooden cabin- 4 berths] _ USD$25
[Second class cabin - 4 berths] _ USD$21
Fares: As of 2006JAN01
(Sources: VirtuallyThere.ca/VietNam and Duong Sat)
The benefit is that you have a wider range of tickets (they hold tickets back from travel agents) from which to make a choice and if one class is not available you can decide on the spot what you want to do.
You then go on your cruise knowing that you rail travel is assured.
NOTE: Trains leave DEAD ON TIME - always arrive about 30 minutes before departure so you can sort out any problems you have with accommodation.
SA PA GUIDES
Some guides are SO or TUNG (a Black H'Mong) located through Sa Pa Goldsea Hotel, [email] >, 58 Fanxipan Road, Tel: 84-(0)-20-872-180 / 84-(0)-20-871-869. E-m:[email].
Villages worth visiting are Cat Cat, GiangTaChai, TaPhin, YLinhHo, HauThao, SuPan (easily the most beautiful village in Sapa area).
Another excellent guide is "Thanh-Sa Pa" [email] >, guiding for over 6 years and has good English. An enterprising guy, he has a tour that includes night 1 in Tavan, Dzay People, night 2 in Seo Trung Ho, Red Dzao, night 3 Ban Ho, Tay People, night 4,5 in Sa Pa, day 6 is for the Montagnard market.
At the Mountain View Hotel there is a Mrs. Hong there who runs a guide service. Many of them are female and young but are very experienced in showing visitors around. For Mount PhanXiPan climbers she has a man named Chang - he is strong enough to assist the weary climbers. Always ask for the long route to the top - the short one is too steep.
But on ALL accounts avoid guides from the Victoria! (expensive - and the Victoria Hotel itself - aging).
Note: You MUST employ a guide if you climb Mount FanSiPan as ONLY they can obtain the required climbing permit from the police. Do NOT worry if the guide appears young, or female, as they all have excellent guiding skills and are likely stronger than you!
And ALL your money helps the locals rather than enriching some cowboy in Ha Noi.
There is regular Sunday bus to Bac Ha from Sa Pa but you can get there by local bus from Lao Cai. There are over 600 hotel rooms of all types in Bac Ha - just make sure you are not too near a street loudspeaker as the chair of the Lao Cai Peoples Committee believes in only setting the volume at high!
Remember Friday and Saturday rates for hotels, etc are higher than the rest of the week. Book your rail reservation at least two days ahead at 120 La Duane - and avoid Ha Noi agent markups and the chance of a different class of service.
There are rooms with view down to the valley. I stayed there last time I was in Sapa(20$/night). It was amazing view, the room is wooden floor, spacious and clean..Mrs Thuan is friendly and helpful too.
Thanks heaps, both of you,
That's a ton more info than I expected. I'll let you know how I go!!
I have noticed from our last trips to Vietnam that there are massage parlors everywhere in vietnam. Are there available in Sapa and the different villiages you mentioned?
Just enjoy your trip and take a lot of pictures =). Trust me You will have Greattt time in Sapa, it is Fairy land of nature.
Treks along the rice terraces can be very muddy and slippery! Bring proper gear! But the view was awesome and definitely worth it. I stayed at the Auberge and it was fantastic to have clouds move into the outdoor balcony while sipping Vietnamese coffee. Beautiful place!