Sapa, Vietnam

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Vietnam:

3 Day Guide to Trekking in SaPa

Dates Visited: February 2019

SaPa is a popular destination in Northern Vietnam for outdoor lovers. Most people come to do trekking in SaPa since the region is known for beautiful rice fields lining the highland mountains. This small town is situated roughly 7 hours north of the capital of Hanoi and is easy to reach by bus.

Some people opt to stay in town, however we would highly recommend doing a homestay in SaPa because it offers a uniquely immersive experience. We were recommended the most amazing host, Su, who is the kindest person we met in all of Vietnam (no, really. not exaggerating). Read more about our homestay experience with Su down below.

Cost: 700,000 VND ($15 USD)/person per night

Includes: All meals, Private room, Trekking, Showers, Laundry, and an amazing cultural experience

On the bus to SaPa we realized that our prior booking for a hostel/homestay had not gone through. Feeling a bit panicked we remembered Molly's friend had been to SaPa before and recommended a place to us. On a whim we decided to send Giang Su (Sue for short) a voice message on WhatsApp to see if she had an availability for the next 4 nights.

She answered almost instantly and said she would be more than happy to host us. We told her the bus company we would be arriving on and she said her husband would be there to pick us up. Sure enough, a friendly looking Vietnamese man was there holding a sign with our names on it right as the bus doors opened.

Best Homestay in Sapa Vietnam: Giang Su

Shortly after we arrived at Su's she had a huge dinner made for us. She insisted that we eat until we were stuffed, plus some more. Then she broke out the happy water (rice wine) and taught us some traditional cheers in the local language.

She answered almost instantly and said she would be more than happy to host us. We told her the bus company we would be arriving on and she said her husband would be there to pick us up. Sure enough, a friendly looking Vietnamese man was there holding a sign with our names on it right as the bus doors opened.

Shortly after we arrived at Su's she had a huge dinner made for us. She insisted that we eat until we were stuffed, plus some more. Then she broke out the happy water (rice wine) and taught us some traditional cheers in the local language.

Best Homestay in Sapa Vietnam: Giang Su
Best Homestay in Sapa Vietnam: Giang Su
Best Homestay in Sapa Vietnam: Giang Su

Unfortunately you can't find this homestay on any booking website like Hostelworld or Booking.com. But, you can find Su on Facebook and send her a voice message through there. Make sure it's a voice message, she speaks English very well (self taught) but can't read or write. Her WhatsApp number (+84 1677 924 940) is posted on the cover photo of her page.

Honestly we cannot recommend her enough; this is hands down the best homestay in SaPa. Su is so welcoming and absolutely the nicest person we met in Vietnam. Not once did she ask anything of us and only wanted us to have an amazing time.

Day 1: Trekking in SaPa

After taking the long bus ride from Hanoi we got a good night rest and woke up refreshed the next morning. Su asked us what we wanted to do and we decided on doing a bit of trekking. We geared up and headed out of her small village of Lao Chai.

While walking through the village Su stopped and got us some freshly chopped sugarcane for the hike. If I didn't know any better I would have assumed it was bamboo before she used a machete to cut off the outer layer. Not surprisingly it's quite sweet; you're supposed to chew on it and enjoy the sugar water that comes out. However, you don't want to swallow the coarse cane that is left over - just spit it out.

Best Trekking in SaPa
Best Trekking in SaPa
IMG_2773 - 600 4x5

As we left the village and headed into Hoang Lien National Park, we trekked through rice fields with painted mountains in the distance. Towards the end of our hike we saw enormous water buffalo. Some even let us take a few photos with them 😉

Day 2: Rest and Relaxation

After doing some great trekking in SaPa our first day we decided to rest a bit the following day. We hand washed our laundry the prior night and hung it out to dry in the daylight. Though we gave ourselves 3 nights for our clothes to dry, they never really got drier than slightly damp.

As it turns out, SaPa is quite humid even with the chilly temperature in February. Oh well, you live and you learn. On the plus side Su's dog recently had a few puppies so we got to play with them a bit while hanging around the house. We had an awesome day of relaxing and felt right at home here.

Best Homestay in Sapa Vietnam: Giang Su
Best Homestay in Sapa Vietnam: Giang Su

Day 3: More Trekking in SaPa

On our third and final day we lucked out and had absolutely perfect weather. Su took us out again to do another longer trek through Ta Van, the next village over. Then we headed up high into the mountains to overlook the rice fields and reached Cau May Waterfall.

After walking nearly 10km (6 miles) we stopped for lunch at Waterfall Homestay and scarfed down a bowl of noodles. Then we walked along the river watching the sunset until we reached Su's house again just before dark. We were exhausted by the time we got back but were certain that Su showed us the absolute best trekking in SaPa, hands down. The next day we woke up early, and said our good byes. Su kindly showed us to the bus station and sent us another voice message to make sure we made it safely to our next destination; the Ha Giang loop.

GOPR8847 - 600 4x5
GOPR8869-3 - 600 4x5
GOPR8901 - 600 4x5

How to get to SaPa

SaPa is roughly a 7-8 hour drive from Hanoi, depending on how many times you stop. However, we wouldn't recommend driving there unless you feel quite confident on a motorbike, and have an international driver's license. If you don't plan on driving, that leaves going by either bus or by train.

Both take about the same amount of time, but a train will cost you more. It's possible to buy both bus and train tickets online through 12go.asia, though you will most definitely overpay. Now that's not to say you won't overpay if you decide to go to a ticket office. We went to a ticket agent but ended up overpaying by a couple dollars anyway.

We learned after the fact that you shouldn't pay more than 200,000 VND (~$9 USD)/person for a ticket to get from Hanoi to SaPa. That should be enough to get you a sleeper bus with a toilet. We bought a combined ticket from Hanoi -> SaPa -> Ha Giang for $22 USD/person so we overpaid by about $2 USD for the ticket to SaPa.

How to get to SaPa by bus
How to get to SaPa by bus

Warning: be careful about the bus ticket you buy. Make sure you are getting a sleeper bus (first picture). You do not want to end up on a local bus (second picture). The seats are super small and it's packed full of locals throwing up into bags during the ride. The bus stops frequently (not to pee) for people to hop on and off at their destinations. It's also pretty common for people to travel with chickens on the bus. 

Cost: $12 online | 200,000 VND (~$9 USD) cash in person

Length of Trip: 7hr 30min - 8hrs

We prefer using 12go.asia to price compare bus tickets anywhere in Asia. The nice thing is that you can use a credit card to book whereas most ticketing places only accept cash in person. That being said, it's always cheaper to pay cash in person.

Cost: $22 online | Cheaper to pay cash in person

Length of Trip: 7hr 55min

Even though taking a train costs more, it will definitely have a toilet onboard. It sounds kind of silly, but we get bathroom anxiety when traveling long distances. We always ask if the mode of transportation (mainly buses) will have a toilet. Not all buses in Vietnam have toilets.

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By |2019-05-15T04:34:43-04:00March 1st, 2019|Asia, Vietnam|0 Comments

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