A Visit to Sa Pa
I recently spent a long weekend in Sa Pa, located in Vietnam’s Northern mountainous region. On a Saturday morning, my housemate Ray and I woke up and caught a taxi to the bus pick-up point here in Hanoi. A sleeper bus picked us and some others up, and we were on our way! I had never seen a sleeper bus like this in my life; I must say my expectations were certainly exceeded! I grabbed an upper chair next to the window; Ray got one in the middle row beside me. We had around 6 straight hours of driving through the beautiful countryside to our location: Sa Pa!
I had warning from somebody that Sa Pa has gotten “very touristy”.
This is backpacker code for ‘too mainstream’ and ‘it’s going to be expensive’. I did my research; looked up photos and prices beforehand and decided to go nonetheless. I am so glad I did! It was wonderful. Sa Pa is a town amongst mountains in Vietnam’s North region, very close to the Chinese boarder. People travel there to experience some cooler weather in the country, trek the mountains and see breathtaking views when the weather allows, and some even do overnight treks and stay with locals in their mountain-side villages.
Ray and I had accommodation booked for our 3 nights there, but still wanted to do a walk and further immerse ourselves in the nature. When we arrived, local Hmong ladies all try to get you to book treks and accommodation with them. I allowed one lady, Giang (pronounced “Jean”) to give me her number. Read more about our trek – the good and the totally unexpected! with Giang here.
Other than our mountain trek, we tried out the little cafes and restaurants.
My personal favourite is pictured above; a cafe and art gallery on the walk down to the Cat Cat village. An absolute must-go! I will never forget sitting outside here, inhaling the clear and crisp mountain air, and drinking iced ‘Sa Pa plum’ juice. It was here that I finally made the decision that I need to move on to my next destination sooner rather than later. Don’t get me wrong, Hanoi is great – so great, in fact, that I could carry on living here for a very long time. And that is just the problem. Being in a new environment has always been great for my reflection and making decisions that I’ve been struggling with for a while. I digress.
We tried out an Egyptian shisha bar located up the road from Sa Pa’s central amphitheature.
The place had very average music unfortunately, but we were drawn to it nonetheless due to its really awesome layout and decor. The experience overall was enjoyable; the shishas good quality, and I had the most incredible tea I’ve ever tasted! It was made out of real dried rose petals and tasted exactly as it smelled. We also hit another joint called the Colour Bar which was more rustic and transported me back to the Gili Islands and Long Beach in Ko Lanta. The variety of what was available in Sa Pa was a nice mix of Western, traditional Vietnamese, as well as more eclectic places as mentioned.
I also managed to get a run and some good long walks in, the weather was far more conducive to physical activity than that in Hanoi!
Sa Pa was overall a great experience and I’d certainly recommend it to anybody heading in this direction. It is affordable, pretty accessible from Hanoi, and is a refreshing place to immerse oneself in nature and recharge the batteries.