A photographic account of Vietnam: Sapa

From Hanoi we move on to one of my favourite places in Vietnam the world – Sapa.

The first thing I did when I stepped out of the coach in front of our hotel in Sapa was take a deep, slow breath of pure, fresh air (a much-desired contrast to the heavy, polluted air of Hanoi). The second thing I did was stretch (I was quite stiff after hours – I lost count – on a coach). The third thing was meant to be a run to the restroom, however, it was disrupted by the stunning view that lay right in front of my eyes. Our hotel was on top of a hill and right opposite was a valley with mountains, hills, rice terraces, streams, green and golden beauty… I stood there for a few minutes, forgetting everything else.

sapa view

The view from our hotel in Sapa.

Sapa was out of our route and required a long drive from Hanoi, so we were quite close to giving it a miss. Out of all the people we knew who went to Vietnam before us, only two included Sapa in their Vietnam holiday and they insisted it was a must. We were both extremely happy that we took their advice and I strongly recommend this place to anyone who’s planning a trip to Vietnam. My only regret is that we only spent one night there. If I had to go again, I’d definitely make it a three-day stay.

Another tip here is that if you plan to do trekking (which is a must!), and you’re new to trekking, make sure you practice a bit before in your own country – ideally in muddy lands. I’m sharing this advice as, yes, I went there completely green to the concept of trekking, thinking that as long as I was fit and wore into my new badass trekking shoes I’d be ok. Big mistake. If you plan to walk down muddy hills to capture the rice fields, you need to know how to do that without slipping. One of my laces got caught in the hooks of the other shoe and I fell. I had blood running down from my knees and elbows. I was covered in mud. We were in the middle of nowhere, so I had to keep walking in my muddy attire and open wounds. Luckily, I had some antiseptic gel and water with me, so we cleaned the wounds and disinfected them. The guide, one of the most awesome human beings I’ve ever met, rubbed some grass on my wounds to stop the bleeding. Don’t be silly like me. Practice trekking before you go to Sapa, and always carry some essential first aid items on you.

On a more positive note (and also because I love this part), here are some flashbacks from my stay in Sapa:

  • The fresh coconut water we had under the trees next to a small waterfall in the wilderness
  • Our guide who was one of the kindest and smartest men I’ve ever come across. His English was really good, and he picked it up from tourists. He knew how to use my DSLR and its settings, how to compose a shot, etc. from what he learned from tourists. This was a man who grew up in the wilderness and had no education. He was so sharp, so positive and incredibly knowledgeable. When I shook his hand on our last day, I actually had tears in my eyes as I found him incredibly inspiring.
  • Walking in a field full of flowers on my own and getting lost in the peacefulness.
  • Spotting massive, red butterflies that were so close and within reach.
  • The sheer happiness of the children running freely and playing in the streams. These children belonged to no one. They would stick together. They had to climb up mountains every day to go to school.
  • The divine tofu and morning glory we had for lunch in a shed in the middle of nowhere.
  • The blackness of the night and the clear starry sky, as I looked out of the window from the bar.
  • The chickens and other livestock roaming around freely in the fields.
  • The rice left outside the little houses to dry.
  • The women and children from tribes (I believe they were from the Hamong group) who followed us around in their colourful clothes and tried to sell us earrings and other things.

Here are some Sapa photos I brought home with me in my muddy DSLR:

Sapa Panorama

Panorama of the rice terraces and mountains from our trekking day.

 

Sapa field with flowers

The field with flowers - I spent quite some time here!

 

butterfly

A stunning butterfly that I came across in said field of flowers.

 

sapa girl

An adorable Vietnamese toddler and her brother playing with a soldier's helmet.

 

sapa girl

A young Vietnamese girl carrying a child on her back and being hugged by another child while trying to sell bracelets.

 

Sapa boy

Vietnamese boy wearing a 'necklace' he made from metal things he found.

 

Sapa woman

A Vietnamese woman who belongs to one of the many ethnic minority groups in Sapa, such as Hmong and Tay.

 

Sapa Panorama

A panorama of Sapa's terraced rice fields.

As I said, if I had to go to Vietnam again, Sapa would definitely be on my list and, this time, for longer. It’s a perfect place for breath-taking landscapes, trekking, fresh and genuine food, and relaxing. We played it safe and went for a guided tour with accommodation and food included. I would definitely not recommend doing it without a guide, however, I might actually consider staying with the locals instead of a hotel next time.

With a slightly broken heart, I left Sapa, to go back to Hanoi and catch the coach to one of the most popular (with good reason) places in Vietnam, Ha Long Bay. Follow this space for my next account!

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