To me visiting Sapa is a must. We got there after being in Vietnam for a week and a half. Sapa is unlike any other part of Vietnam we visited. The air is so fresh compared to HCMC and Hanoi, it was really satisfying taking a deep breath of that crisp mountain air. Here are my tips for visiting Sapa.
1. Take a train to Sapa and get a soft sleeper 4 berth. We used Vietnam Impressive to help us book our train tickets. I highly recommend them. They made sure we were taken care of and helped with any changes we needed. Anyways we rode one way on a Fanxipan car and back in a Chapa Express car on the way back. Both were clean and nice. Soft sleepers are the more luxurious than hard sleepers and I believe most hard sleepers have 6 beds instead of 4. You can pay extra to have a private 2 berth, but I think the 4 berth was a fun adventure. To be honest Ryan and I were a little nervous to meet who we would be sharing a room with. It turned out we shared one with the first American’s we met while in Vietnam. We got to chat with them about all their experiences and we had a great time. On the way back we shared a berth with an Australian and his tour guide and again we got to chat and learn things we otherwise wouldn’t have known.
2. The minorities are incredible to learn about, but they generally have a motive. The H’mong people have gorgeous clothing and they are incredible people. I really enjoyed speaking to them. For the most part they are out to sell you their gorgeous bracelets and other “handmade” items. With that being said it is still worth speaking to them and learning their story. I spoke with a girl who told me how she was married at 16 and had two babies by the time she was 18. She was so sweet and I loved hearing about her. I did end up buying 5 silver bracelets from her, but I love those bracelets. They remind me of her.
3. Don’t have high expectations for food. We really enjoyed the food in Vietnam. I would have to say our least favorite food was in Sapa. I think because it is such a resort town you can expect resort food. There was a french style restaurant we really enjoyed… but it wasn’t very Vietnamese. That was The Hill Station. They have a great assortment of cheeses and do a wonderful packed lunch for the trains. Overall though we were disappointed with the food in Sapa.
4. Room with a “view”. Be careful when you book a room with a “view”. We paid a little extra for a view and got to see about 1/4 of the mountains with the rest blocked by another building. Although we were glad we could at least see the mountains that to me was not what I would consider a view. Just be wary when booking and maybe even inquire first before paying extra for a view.
5. Rent a motorbike. This is a MUST. In most of Vietnam the roads are crazy. Even in the middle of Sapa they can be a bit overwhelming. Once you get on the country roads though it is for the most part traffic free. Riding the motorbike over passes and to different waterfalls was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. We rode all day and only paid $5 for the motorbike. I cannot stress enough how much we enjoyed this.