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Sapa - A Mountain Paradise!

sunny 25 °C

Sapa is a truly enchanting town. It is nestled 2000m above sea level on the steep slopes of north-western Vietnam. The town overlooks an impressive, deep valley filled with cascading bright green rice terraces. We found a beautiful room for $18 that overlooked the valley, although our room was only on the second floor we got a shock when we went out on our balcony and looked down at a 50m drop, apparently the hotel is hanging over the edge of a small cliff.

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^^ Sapa
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^^ The view from our room
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Our first day here we just relaxed and wandered around the quaint markets and sampled some of the local plum wine – delicious but potent, closer to plum ethanol than plum wine!

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^^ Fooling around at the market
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^^ This rooster had it's leg cocked ready to battle me
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^^ Piggy on his way from the market

Our second day in Sapa we set our sights to exploring the nearby mountains and hired a motorbike for $5 a day. After fuelling up we hit the mountain road west of town and found ourselves winding through the steep valleys and gorges, I had to focus on not crashing as the view was so breathtaking. The mist was rolling around the mountain and it made for an amazing ride as we cruised through the clouds on the quiet mountain pass.

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Eventually we started getting a bit chilly riding through the hills, so on the way back we stopped at Thac Bac (Silver Falls). The guard at the waterfall gave us the option of paying full price for a ticket or half price for no ticket, we decided to go along with the bribe and save a couple of dollars. It only took 15 minutes of walking through pristine mountain forest before we reached the stunning waterfall. After admiring the falls we headed off back to town for lunch.

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That afternoon we took the bike and rode south of town along the high ridge above the valleys edge to Ban Ho, a little farming town. The scenery along the way was unlike any other we have seen; children riding buffalo and playing in the fields, women dressed in colourful tribal clothes walking along the road to their villages with their babies strapped to their backs, small waterfalls between rice paddies as they cascade and feed each other with clean mountain water. So much beauty and not enough words to describe them!

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^^ Waiting for the local wildlife to pass
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^^ Beautiful rice paddies
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We had so much fun on our second day with the motorbike that we decided to hire it again and venture even further out of town with a day trip to Ta Phin village, where the Red Dzao people call home. The Red Dzao people originate from China but have been calling Vietnam home for hundreds of years. Before we left we purchased some candy and along the way to the village we handed it out to the children strolling along the road and also those that were helping their parents in the fields. As soon as we arrived in the village we were greeted by five women who were excited to show us around their village. So here we were, in the hills of Vietnam with five local tribal women dressed in their full tribal outfit guiding us around their home, a real treat! They took us to a cave just outside their village where we scrambled around inside as they took us deeper into the mountain and explained that they can use this cave to travel through the mountain, although it takes 3 nights and 4 days to get through to the other side! After 15 minutes we decided to turn back as it was getting fairly hairy, this was not a tourist cave with stairs or rails so we decided to avoid broken legs.

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^^ Red Dzao house
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^^ Exploring the cave

One of the ladies was telling us that her village was actually 3 hours walk from Ta Phin so in order to get her children to school each day they leave at 4am each morning to trek into Ta Phin, it makes you respect your easy education even more.
While we were wandering around the village and surrounding rice paddies I noticed that we weren’t seeing the usual buffalo that most people have around their farm land. When I asked her where all the buffalo were she informed me that there was a terrible winter two years ago and unfortunately all of the buffalo died, so until they save up enough money for new buffalo it is back to the back-breaking labour of hand ploughing the fields.

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After our visit of the village was complete we decided to purchase some hand-made items that the ladies were selling. They were very thankful for us supporting them and also gave us some small gifts for free which was really nice. We gave them the rest of our candy for their children that were currently in school and headed back into town.

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Our last day in Sapa we just cruised around the town on the bike admiring the stunning landscape and peoples that make Sapa such an amazing place. This is definitely one of our favourite places in Vietnam!

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 05:18 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam sapa red_dzao

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It appeared you were the only western people around. It seemed so clean, we will have to try and get to Sapa while we are in Vietnam in January. Great photos, my favorite was the group snaps. :)

by chris tayler

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