Destinations

Nested under the shadow of Fansipan mountain, Sapa Town beautifully sits on a hill top at 1,600m above sea level, viewing over the Muong Hoa valley. Being unknown until 1880s when the French arrived Sapa town was quickly became well-known for its natural beauty, fresh and cool climate. As a result, in early decades of 20th Century, It was built into a summer resort by the French with some hundred villas to accommodate their colonials to escape away from summer heat of cities in lower regions.
The resistant war against the French(1945-1955), caused a lot of damages and Sapa was almost isolated and forgotten until 1990s when tourism started again in Vietnam. Sapa woke up to welcome the first tourists in early 1990s and be developing into a large town to serve the booming tourism. Although experiencing such fast growing, the town is well maintained its own charms and resisted its harmony to the surrounding nature. From the top of Ham Rong Mountains a perfect panorama view of the town open wide with lovely architectures and buildings under the shades of pine trees which centered around the Church and market place.

Location: Cat Cat Village is 2km from Sapa Townlet, Sapa District.
Characteristics: This is an age-old village of H’Mong ethnic group remaining unique customs and practices that are lots in other villages.

Visitors to Cat Cat have an opportunity to admire a lively and colorful picture. That is the image of young women sitting by looms with colorful pieces of brocade decorated with designs of flowers and birds. When these pieces of brocade are finished, they are dyed and embroidered with beautiful designs.

A noteworthy is that H’Mong women use plants and leaves to dye these brocade fabrics. And then they roll a round and smooth section of wood covered with wax on fabrics to polish them, making their colors durable.

In addition to the brocade weaving craft, many residents in Cat Cat are good at manipulating gold and silver jewelry. Their products are fairly sophisticated, especially jewelry for women.

Tourists to Cat Cat are most attracted by its unique customs, including the custom of “pulling wife”. A man can ask his friends to lure a girl he likes to his house and keeps her there in three days. During these days, if the girl agrees to become his wife, a wedding will be held. However, the girl can happily go home after three days if she does not like him.

Traditional houses of H’Mong people in Cat Cat have three rooms with three doors and covered with po mu wood roof. In the house there are three columns that stand in round or square stones. The walls are made from sawn timber. The main door is always closed and only opens when people in the house organize important events. Altar, inlaid floor containing food, places for sleeping, kitchen and receiving guests are indispensable parts of the houses.

Ta Phin is a picturesque thirty minute drive North of Sapa. Set within a valley with a towering mountain peak at one end, this village is alive with the daily life of the Kinh, Red Dao and Black Hmong people.

The valley floor is layered with rice paddies and dotted with 20 small home communes. Above them are some smaller communes and a patchwork of corn and vegetable fields.

Ta Van is a small village set within a picturesque valley of Muong Hoa . A night stay here will give you a close-up experience of the life-style and culture typical of the area.

Convenient to the town center, this popular day trip from Sapa is a good chance to traipse around the rice terraces and experience a bit of rural village life. Hire a car or motorbike for the 9km (5 1/2-mile) road down the valley from Sapa to the Hmong village of Lao Chai (some folks even walk it); it’s a nice ride in itself, with great views of the lush terraces. From there, you’ll just follow the valley for a few miles to the next town of Ta Van . Along the way, you’ll walk through terraced rice fields and among some picturesque villages, and experience a bit of rural life.

About 8 – 9 Km southeast of Sapa town on the west bank of Muong Hoa River, Lao Chai is a commune composed by three large villages with over 100 families of the Black H’mong ethnic. From a high point of the main road 8 Km from Sapa town, great view of the whole village open wide to offer the marvelous panorama of the village, backed by high mountains and facing the river. The H’mong people in this village experience rice intensive farming on the lower land near the bottom of the valley as main source of earning while growing corn on the mountain slopes at the back of the village.

At the end of the motor way about 25 Km from Sapa town lies a vast and flat valley, circled by mountains and hills. It is Ban Ho valley home to the Tay ethnic. The Muong Hoa River winds its way around the village provide fresh water for 2 crops of rice and bean every year and it make the scenery of the valley more romantic. The Tay people possesses high rice farming technique and live sedentary lifestyle. Their villages are often very large with hundred households. Their houses are impressively built on stilts in unique structure to form superb dwellings. It is also a very good village for experiencing home stay.

Young citizens of Lao Cai Province Vietnam and foreign tourists often trek to Ban Ho to indulge in the pristine Lavie Stream, enjoy the sweet sound of running water from the Ca Nhay Waterfalls and other natural attractions of the tranquil village.

The Lavie Stream, together with Muong Hoa Stream, weaves through boulders, hills, mountains and terraced paddy fields of Tay village, which is nestled in the breathtaking Valley Muong Hoa, adding the finishing touch to the picturesque image of Ban Ho Sapa.

Even though Ban Ho is not too far from the center of Sapa Vietnam not many tourists have visited the village because of the tough approach road, which is under construction and slippery in the rainy season.

However, the village is also accessible by driving from Sapa to Su Pan Village and then trekking 10 kilometers to Ban Ho. Topas is one of a number of tour operators who offer this one-day package, with cost determined by the number of participants.

Ban Ho Village, Ban Ho is worth the somewhat difficult journey to get there, as the village rewards visitors with stunning views of unspoiled sites and an opportunity to discover the daily activities of the ethnic people Tay.

Located about 7 km southwest of Sapa town, on the west side of Muong Hoa River. Y Linh Ho is a small commune composed by a dozen of small hamlets scattering on the very tough mountain terrain with high and steep mountains. There are some hundred inhabitants from the Black H’mong only living in this commune. They built their rudimentary houses on their farmland and mainly cultivate corn and dry rice on the steep hillsides. The only way to get to the commune is on foot from the main road. It is also the place where we start many of our hiking tours.

Also located along Muong Hoa Valley like Lao Chai and Ta Van but Su Pan commune can be referred to as “mountainous commune”. Occupying the highland on the east side of the main road about 17 Km from Sapa town, Su Pan including 4 small hamlets of the Black H’mong and Red Zao looks down to the Muong Hoa Valley and is one of the poorest commune to Sapa due to the thin and poor soil. Walking uphill from the road, one can see rudimentary houses built on the rocky farmland where the locals cultivate corn for their staple food.

Opposite to Su Pan on the other side of Muong Hoa River and valley is Giang Ta Chai village of the Red Zao ethnic, nested under shade of the trees and bamboo hedges near a large and magnificent waterfall. The Red Zao people here built their houses on the rocky land and little bit reserved to outsiders. From the main road, a narrow trails as a string down to the river and a romantic suspension bridge cross to the other side, passing the foot of the waterfall to the village.

Lying at the southern edge of the district, about 35km from Sapa town, these three villages each consist of about 10 to 15 families are among the most remote villages and home to the Xa Pho, a very small ethnic group populated as few as nearly 4,000 in Vietnam only. Till nowadays these people rarely contact with people from other group and most of them can speak their own slang only. However schools were built in these villages recently and the children now go to school. The Xa Pho in these villages are among the poorest people in Vietnam due to backwards farming technique. They mainly live on slash and burn agriculture, hunting, gathering forest products such as bamboo shoot, mushroom. For about 10 years up to now, some projects and programs have been carrying out here in order to help villagers to handle better farming technique to improve their life but it will take time. A tough trail which takes about 5 to 6 hours walk from Ban Ho village which offers fabulous scenery and a chance to explore, meet and witness the amazingly hard life of the Xa Pho in these villages.

Following the main road 4C 14km further north is the famous Silver Waterfall and 4 km more is the highest mountain pass of Vietnam which is called by locals Heaven Gate. The road ride offers great view of the magnificent Fansipan on the other side of the valley with immense lush forest. Tram Ton pass is also an ideal point for enjoying breathtaking scenery of the west side of Fansipan which is very different from the east side due to the different climate.

Can Cau market is one of Vietnam’s most fascinating open –air market, and isolated market which takes place only on Saturday every week.

This is a lovely local market which still retains the local quaint and authentic being of the main tourist route.

The areas is close to China border and in a hidden place, less visitors come here. – Horses, dogs, cat, pigs and textiles…. all on sales! This is of most amazing market you’ve ever seen. Opportunity to takes best photos!

Bac Ha Market is in Bac Ha District, Lao Cai Province; about 75km (2 hours driving) from Lao Cai Railway Station.

Bac Ha is famous for its Sunday market. It is no only a trading centre but also a meeting place for couples, friends, and relatives every Sunday.

The market is very crowded, local productsfor sale or barter are carried on horseback. There is a brisk trade at the market for everything from hand-embroidered skirts to all manner of 4-legged animals, including water buffaloes, horses, pigs, dogs and cows.

This Sunday market attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill
tribes. Some walk several hours for the weekly opportunity to trade and barter food, animals, clothes and household goods.

Most of the locals ignored tourists and focused on the task at hand: buying, selling, and trading goods, as there’s much to accomplish in this once-a-week opportunity.

Big market with a wide range of ethnic groups: Hmong, Dao, Nung, and merchants from other ethnic groups who come all the way from China to sell their products. Several Pa Zi women sell traditional incense made from the bark and resin of scented trees.

Muong Khuong market takes place on Sundays and is located in a small border town, which is frequented by Flower H’mong, Tu Di, Tay and Giay ethnic minorities. They come from surrounding villages to buy and sell local products such as food and material for agriculture and fabric.

* The road trip to Muong Hum takes 2.5 hours from Sapa(75km) and 1.5 hour from Lao Cai although the distant is only 42km due to tough road.

It is the colorful market in a mountainous area where the Flower H’mong mainly gathers to exchange their homemade products.

This Tuesday market is about 35km from Bac Ha. You can get here via a fairly good road, or by road and river; hotels in Sapa and Bac Ha can organise trips. Coc ly is a small village on the Chay river inhabited by the Flower H’mong Minority people. The Flower H’mong traditionally wear a distinctive and bright coloured costume. They are a gentle, softly spoken people who live in the steep mountainous country close to the Chinese border. Because Coc Ly is more remote than Sapa, the dress and way of life is more traditional than in the large centers. The market deals in fruit, vegetable, pork and chickens, in addition to colourful fabrics and items of traditional dress. There is a buffalo sale in progress and many of these placid animals are tethered close to the market. Buffalo are still widely used in the growing process, especially in the mountainous regions. Horse are an important form of transport in the North West and a quite a few, sturdy ponies were tied to tree around the market. The horse carry a light timber frame on their back to carry produce to and from the market.

There’s no dancing or singing, but Coc Ly Market in Lao Cai Province always turns colorful and festive on Tuesdays, when ethnic people gather there to buy and sell goods, dine and drink, or just wander to enjoy the ambience of the montagnard market.

Many ethnic traders from Bac Ha and other parts of Lao Cai Province dress up in colorful costumes and bring horses, chickens, buffaloes, vegetables or whatever they can sell to the festive market in the wee hours, and will not return home until 1pm.

Certainly, what catches the eyes of visitors most are the different colors of the costumes worn by ethnic people and the handicrafts they sell at the market, about 50 kilometers from Lao Cai City in the northern province.

You can see young and old Hmong women, wearing skirts and hats with different types of embroidered flowers, crowding the market during the opening hours of Coc Ly. Scarves, clothes, decorations and other items made of tho cam (ethnic fabric) on sale also add color to the bazaar by the Chay River.

The colorful items are put on sale not just for locals but also tourists, particularly foreigners. However, you should remember to bargain when you want to buy your favorites, and the items at the booths located at the start of the path you walk on always have higher prices. Keep walking toward the end of the traditionally ethnic market until you find a real bargain.

A good idea is to stroll every corner of the once-a-week bazaar as you listen to unexpected conversations, see nice surprises and learn how ethnic people sell and buy farm produce, life’s necessities and other things.

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