a VirtualTourist member asked on Sep 12, 2009
In February 2010, I'm planning a trip to Vietnam and am considering a side trip (2 days r/t) to Sapa. I've read about it and it sounds intriguing and not at all a glitzy tourist trap. However, I'm a "mature" (60's) female traveler with mild back problems. Can probably trek 2 miles w/o a problem. My travel buddy thinks it's too far and perhaps too difficult. Any insights this forum can provide will be much appreciated. Thanks.
SAPA is worth visiting though I have to say it's rather touristic. I guess you will be intrigued by their local costumes and their bustling lifestyle.
Check out my photos taken in February this year"
Hi, It is worth the trip. You go by overnight train, and you can get different levels of accommodation on the train. The scenery is beautiful, and the ethnic groups have colourful clothing that is lovely. You do not have to hike, but can do day tours from there....... or when you get to Hanoi, perhaps have a look at a package tour, everybody will have them, including your hotel. You don't have to worry about anything then. If you want to go to Bac Ha Markets, then they are on the weekend, and accommodation in sapa is full, so you would need to book for a weekend.
I too, am older with mild back problems, and I managed ok.
Hope this is of some help.
Sapa is well worth the effort. You will never see more beautiful rice terraces on this earth. It is rustic, and it is full of tourists and minority hawkers following them around, but it's also a fantastic experience. I'm 66 myself and went to Sapa in '08. I encourage you to get in some sort of shape B4 you go - you'll need good leg muscles for those terrible trails (or what they call trails!) I'm headed to VN for my 3rd trip in a few weeks and might even go up to the NW Highlands myslef - so much I did not see the first time. When you're up in Lao Cai, go over and see the Chinese border (10 min. from train station).
If you don't trek there are Jeep trips and the markets are extremely interesting and one of the few places in all of VN where minority costumes are worn on a daily basis.
Now I see that your trip is Feb!!! That area will be fairly cool to cold then, and fog will appear off and on with sun. I was there in March and still foggy and cool. Just bring layers of clothes and you'll be fine - will not be overrun with tourist then.
I agree with others.We are older so we did a tour from Hanoi for 3 days with Handspan don't know if they are still in operation.What we did for the day trek was go one way thro the villages then we organised for the guide to get us a motorbike or jeep back to town.
It is intriguing in terms of the scenery, but the hilltribe ladies tend to follow us when we were "trekking". We felt pressured to buy their handicrafts as they followed us for the whole day! It was an easy walk on pavement and dirt road mostly during our 3-day stay. If you are tired, you can get a motorbike to take you back to your hotel. Or check with your agent to make a pre-arrangement for pick up at the end of the walk. Many of the scenic villages can actually be visited by car, without much walking.
YOu really don't have to trek far unless you want to. For Sapa, which is considerably more touristy now, on a second trip after first visiting back in 1995 before the days when these trekked to villages became homestays, I road on the back of a motobike guide to go to the further villages. Not the 'greenest' of methods but you can visit far less touristy places. Also, if you can time your visit for the Sunday Bac Ha Market, I'd recommend doing so since it's not as touristy as Sapa. Sapa is still worth a visit because it's up there in the mountains and affords great views but again as someone's already posted, it's a matter of hit and miss in Feb. if it gets socked in by fog. Mim raises a good point that some of the touts in Sapa are quite agressive but if you continue to say no and ignore them, they eventually get the picture and realize that they're wasting their time.
yes, the touts can be aggressive! My tour leader was nice, and she saw to that, and spoke in their language to them. She also did some deals for me, so nice and helpful.
Sapa is worth for your trip!!
Sapa is one of the must-see sights in the Northern Vietnam, thus it's crowded in the high season. However, you still spend your time in new and unique place in Sapa. I recommend you to talk part in a home-stay tour combine with easy trek like this tour: activetravelshop.com/?name=p...
Or for more luxury you can have a nice stay in Topas Eco Lodge.
Hope you have a great trip!!!
THanks to all of you who replied to my Sapa inquiry. It sounds like a must do stop over during my trip. Your advice and travel hints are much appreciated.
I was in Sapa in November 2014 and thought it appropriate to update this thread with current information.
The main consideration for visiting Sapa is the weather. While we were there it was too misty and foggy to see much more than 10 feet away so the views were lost to us. November is mentioned as an optimal time but the end of the rainy season hadn't arrived yet. However we did enjoy our accommodation there at Tapas Ecolodge where we were able to relax.
The second consideration is your tolerance for high pressure sales. The tribal women are an incredible pain in the neck. In town they surround you and try to guilt you into buying something. On the trails, they're just as bad. They'll follow you on the trail and, when you reach the end of the road, tell you that you should buy something from them because they've given you so much time! On the road to Lau Cai we were in a restaurant when a group of women came in following two men who appeared to be French. The women literally "cornered" these men in an attempt to make them buy something. I don't know if they did make a purchase but the women surrouned them for at least 45 minutes.
I've been in India and thought the touts were bad but Sapa is worse, much worse. In order to protect yourself, do not make eye contact with the women or begin any conversation. Any conversation results in pressure to buy.
Sounds like they are a lot worse to when I was there!