In the terrace rice fields
And towering green mountains
I found my oasis
The clouds wrap around the mountains
And cradle them
Like a newborn baby in a blanket
Permanent foot prints mark the path
Where nature will never grow again
We will never feel its wrath
Strong Hmong Women
Carry their babies on their backs
In a colorful blanket
Like an adorable, make-shift rucksack
Twist and turn in the air
Their fluttering breaks the silence
The peaks of the mountains
Reach towards the sky
Which one is the tallest and the bravest of them all?
The elaborate designs
On the costumes of the Hmong Women
Symbolize effort, creation, beauty, and talent
That stand vivid against the sky
And the different tones, hues, and shades around them
They speak in a language
So different from Vietnamese
Their culture is so different
From yours and from mine
Girls marry at 15
Boys marry at 17
Then wait a few years
To continue the blood line
I spent a few days
At Mama Mu’s house
With her children, her dogs,
And her spouse
She fed me traditional dishes
Of vegetables and goat
I even made the mistake
Of eating its intestinal juice
With that, I will never gloat
Deep in the mountains
And the valleys
Of Northern Vietnam
Living with their family
HOW TO GET TO SAPA
Sapa is easily reached by Hanoi, either by train or by bus. You can book a train or a bus ticket at many hotels, hostels, and travel agencies in Hanoi. The bus from Hanoi costs $10 (5 hour ride), while the train is a bit more expensive and takes a bit longer (8 hour ride for $25). The train will drop you off in Lao Cai and then you will need to get a one hour van to Sapa. Most buses will drop you off in Sapa.
HOW TO DO A TREK/ HOMESTAY
You may be bombarded with local women asking to take you on a trek and homestay when you get off the bus and walk around town. Feel free to say no until you figure out what’s best for you.
I did a trek and a 3 night homestay with a local woman named Mama Mu. She is a wonderful cook, her children are adorable, the accommodation is comfortable, and she’s the sweetest woman I’ve ever met. If you would like to book a trek and homestay through her (I highly recommend it!) then contact me and I will give you her phone number.
Most homestay’s will also involve a trek to their house through the mountains, the rice fields, and the valleys. Typically, they’ll carry your bag to their house for you so you don’t have to trek with it. My homestay was around $18 a night, and that included breakfast and dinner every day, two treks, rice wine, and accommodation.
WHERE TO STAY
If you don’t want to do a homestay or trek, I recommend staying in Go Sapa Hostel. Although you have to walk up a hill to get to this hostel, the views of the mountains are spectacular. They have free green tea throughout the day, free computers, and it’s around $5-6 a night.
WHAT TO DO
I recommend renting a motorbike and driving the Tram Ton Pass, over 20 kilometers away from Sapa. The fresh mountain air, cascading waterfalls, and infinite valleys makes this one of the most incredible drives you will ever take.
You can also visit Silver Waterfall and Love Waterfall, both on the way to the Tram Ton Pass.
WHERE TO EAT
Their scrambled eggs were light and fluffy and some of the best I’ve had in a long time. They also serve apple and goat cheese spring rolls and a wide variety of delicious desserts (get the tiramisu!)
Their vegetable curry and tofu in tomato sauce was delicious, as well as their fried noodles with chicken. This is one of the cheapest places to eat in Sapa as well.
This social enterprise boasts authentic and responsible treks around Sapa. They also have delicious breakfast options (the fried eggs, baguette, and mushrooms were phenomenal) and delicious fresh coffee and tea. Try their Sapa O’Chau tea, it was my favorite!