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Boasting sublime unspoiled beauty, from rolling verdant hills to spectacular terraced fields, Sa Pa is a mix of natural wonder.
Pa Cheo farmers cultivate rice
Near the Chinese border in the northwest province of Lao Cai and around 376 kilometers from Hanoi, Sa Pa, founded as a scenic resort by the French in 1903, is best known for its wild, unspoiled landscapes.
Sa Pa’s scenic highlights include Hoang Lien Son National Park and the awe-inspiring 3,143-meter-high Mount Fan Si Pan – the highest mountain peak in Indochina. Every year, the area attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world who come to marvel at Sa Pa’s lush vegetation and spectacular scenery.
Nestled around 1,600 meters above sea level, Sa Pa is cloud-covered and cool year-round, with occasional snowfalls in the winter.
It is said that visitors who come to Sa Pa in the summer can experience up to three seasons in a single day. In the morning and afternoon, the weather is cool like that in the spring and autumn, while at noon, it is as sunny and cloudless as a warm summer’s day.
Visitors often travel to the city of Lao Cai by train before heading by coach to Sa Pa. Upon arrival, tourists can learn about the area’s sprawling rice paddies and observe the ethnic H’Mong and Dao peoples who wear a brilliant array of colorful, traditional clothing.
Stunning terraced fields
According to a survey carried out by US-based Travel and Leisure magazine, Sa Pa’s verdant terraced fields were ranked among the seven most beautiful in the world.
The most beautiful terraced field area is Suoi Thau, which is cultivated by the Dao people.
The other fields voted most beautiful by the magazine’s readers include those in Banaye (the Philippines), Yuangyang (Yunnan, China), Ubud (Bali, Indonesia), Annapurna (Nepal), Mae Rim (Chiang Mai, Thailand), and Longji (Guilin, China).
Sa Pa’s terraced fields belong to the ethnic H’Mong, Dao and Giay people, and are located in the Muong Hoa Valley of Lao Chai District. The area totals around 10 square kilometers and tourists can visit to learn about the process of rice planting and cultivation.
The fields were described by Travel and Leisure as “Ladders to the sky” because of their astounding natural beauty.
“It’s the best place in Vietnam with a rich cultural heritage and splendid landscape,” said a Singaporean tourist.
“The scenery and people were amazing,” echoed a tourist from the UK.
Lao Cai’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism also proposed that provincial authorities and the culture ministry should carry out research and compile information on Sa Pa’s terraced fields, Hoang Lien Son National Park, and an ancient rock bank to submit to UNESCO for recognition as world cultural heritage sites.
“This is a difficult task but we are trying to turn Sa Pa’s terraced fields into a world heritage site for the many foreign travelers who love Sapa and Vietnam,” said Tran Huu Son, the department’s chief.
Home to several ethnic groups like the H’Mong, Red Dao, Kinh, Tay, Giay, Hoa, and Xa Pho, Sa Pa is a mosaic of cultures and traditions. Many visitors enjoy learning about the ethnic people’s daily activities, traditions and beliefs.
H’Mong ethnic girl brings the young rice plants to the fields
Tourists are often astonished by the many billowing red headdresses worn by women of the Red Dao minority, visible all over town.
The H’Mong and Dao people make up the largest ethnic groups in the region. Their villages may appear simple and old-fashioned from afar, but many people now own mobile phones and regularly access their email from communal computers.
While some of the older generations of the ethnic minorities have had little formal education and are illiterate, most of the younger generations receive schooling and have a good command of English, French and a handful of other languages.
Tourists can also choose to go on two treks while staying in Sa Pa. The first is a 7 km journey, which takes about four hours and includes a stop for lunch. The other is a full-day adventure, covering around 17 km and following the perimeter of the rice paddies, through forested areas, past the doorsteps of tribal people’s homes, and across rivers and waterfalls.
Watching the locals go about their daily business is also an interesting experience. The children in Sa Pa work extremely hard-tending buffaloes, working in the fields, and caring for their younger siblings. Many of the young girls learn the timeless art of embroidery from their mothers.
The ethnic girls often marry young, at around age 14, and depend on the skills learned from their mothers to start new families of their own.
Sa Pa is also famous for its “love market,” which takes place on Saturday evenings. This cultural tradition once served as a way for ethnic locals to meet, socialize, and find a partner to marry.
In the past, young girls from the Red Dao hill tribes used to come to Sa Pa and sing songs to find partners. The girls would sing while hidden in the dark and when a boy found them – if they liked each other – they would disappear into the forest for three days and would then marry at a later date.
But with the development of tourism, the original love market, with its purpose of uniting young couples, has faded away. Visitors can still visit the area on Saturday nights, however, and be treated to a lively market atmosphere.
With its astonishing beauty and diverse peoples, Sa Pa is a remarkable travel destination and well worth a visit.
Reported by Hoang Kien/TN news
Dirt bike trip in VietnamTOUR INFORMATION
The northern mountainous province of Lao Cai has proposed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism ask for UNESCO’s recognition of Sapa’s terraced fields as a world heritage.
The terraced field is a form of cultivation in the mountainous topographies of many ethnic groups in the world, such as the Inca people in Peru, in Yunnan, China, and in Banaue, the Philippines, which was recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage.
Seven most magnificent terraced fields in the world as voted by Travel & Leisure: Banaue (Philippines), Yuangyang (Yunnan, China), Ubud (Bali, Indonesia), Annapurna (Nepal), Mae Rim (Chiang Mai, Thailand), Sapa (Lao Cai, Vietnam), and Long Ji (Kuei Lin, China).
Sapa’s terraced fields were recently recognised as one of the world’s seven most beautiful and magnificent terraced fields in the world by US-based Travel & Leisure magazine. This was only a vote of readers of a tourism magazine but it is good news for Vietnam.
Dr. Tran Huu Son, Lao Cai provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s chief, said that the department proposed that provincial authorities and the culture ministry make a survey and compile files on Sapa’s terraced fields, Hoang Lien national park and the ancient rock bank in Sapa to submit to UNESCO for recognition as world cultural heritages.
“This is a difficult task but we are trying to turn Sapa’s terraced fields into a world heritage for the many foreign travellers who love Sapa and Vietnam,” Son said.
The Thao & Van Hoa talked with Son about Sapa’s terraced fields:
Do you think that it is good luck Sapa’s terraced fields were voted one of the seven most magnificent terraced fields in the world by Travel and Leisure?
I think that with the natural beauty of that landscape, it is not at all surprising they were recognised as one of the seven most magnificent terraced fields in Asia and the world by Travel and Leisure.
There are some terraced field tours in Sapa, including two major tours: From Sapa town to Ly Lao Chai – Ta Van and Sapa town – Ly Lao Chai – Ta Van – Ban Ho – Thanh Phu – Suoi Thau.
Terraced fields in Sapa are a product of H’Mong and Dao people. This kind of terraced field is different from the fields of Ha Nhi people in Yunnan (China) or in the Philippines because each ethnic group has its own cultivation techniques.
The owners of terraced fields in Sapa have abundant folk knowledge. Their fields are as beautiful as terraced fields in Mu Cang Chai (Yen Bai, Vietnam) or in the Philippines.
Could you tell us more about terraced fields in Sapa and in your opinion, what aspects of Sapa’s terraced fields can be considered outstanding in the world?
Terraced fields are the most popular in the following areas: on abrupt mountain slopes along roads in Trung Chai commune, along the road from Lao Cai city to Sapa town. These are terraced fields of H’Mong people.
Terraced fields owned by H’Mong, Dao and Giay people are located in Muong Hoa valley. This is the combination between cultivation of wet rice in narrow valleys of Giay people and cultivation on high mountains of H’Mong and Dao people.
In Muong Hoa valley, Lao Chai district, visitors can observe a complex of terraced fields from Muong Hoa stream to the middle of the mountain, totalling around 10sq.km. In this area, the beauty of terraced fields is outstanding thanks to the vast space. Another beautiful terraced field area is Suoi Thau, which was created by Dao people.
Terraced fields appear in many provinces in Vietnam. The field in Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai province was recognized as a national relic in 2007. How about the fields in Sapa?
Terraced fields in Sapa are very beautiful. We are making surveys and preparing documents to ask for recognition as a national heritage. We also proposed that competent agencies ask for UNESCO’s recognition of the complex of the terraced fields, the ancient stone bank and Hoang Lien national park as world heritages.
What is the role of terraced fields in today’s farming?
Terraced fields are H’Mong, Dao and Giay people’s farming techniques for sloping topography. It is an achievement in terms of culture and folk knowledge. Terraced fields help maintain food stability in mountainous areas.
Cai Rang floating market, Mekong delta, VietnamIt is a world of colour and movement, of a comforting spray of cool water on your face as you are rowed back to your hotel at night in a slim stick of a boat, of the sleepy glint of dusk as you trail your finger across the river's surface, of the cough and splutter of a small passenger ferry as it crosses the river to Vinh Long, of the throaty gurgle of a rice boat as it slowly motors to Ho Chi Minh City or Cambodia.
Tram Chim National Reserve, Vietnam
Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
A Cu Chi tunnel worker demonstrates how villagers and Viet Cong would enter the hidden tunnels during the war. The openings were incredibly small and hidden by leaves. When tourists visit the tunnels today, they go through segments that have been widened to accommodate Westerners' bodies.
If you go
CU CHI TUNNELS: Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Admission costs about $5.
We're in the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, the Viet Cong's network of secret underground passageways that proved to be one ginormous thorn in the side of the American military during the Vietnam War.
The claustrophobic tunnel system -- dug by hand -- at one time measured more than 120 miles, stretching from the Cambodian border to the outskirts of what was then Saigon. A virtual city, the web of tunnels was home to local villagers seeking shelter from bomb raids, plus thousands of Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army-backed guerrillas who battled South Vietnamese and U.S. forces. Here, right under the boots of American GIs, is where the Viet Cong ate, slept, hid and launched deadly surprise attacks.
It's also where a select group of American soldiers -- a k a tunnel rats -- engaged in what has to be the world's scariest game of hide and seek. These tunnel rats inched their way through the cramped, dark passageways, trying to find the enemy before the enemy found them. Something to think about this Memorial Day.
For obvious reasons, not a lot of soldiers wanted to set foot in these booby-trap-filled hell holes. But these days, the Cu Chi tunnels are one of Vietnam's most popular tourist attractions. Some 1,000 visitors flock daily to the site, located about 45 miles from downtown Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).
Only a few short sections of the tunnels are accessible today. They've been expanded a bit to accommodate Westerners' super-sized bodies, but that didn't keep me from struggling to hunch low enough so my back wouldn't scrape against the dirt ceiling.
"Are there snakes in here?" I ask my Vietnamese guide, who seems almost comfortable in these ridiculously confined quarters.
"Not anymore," he answers with a big grin, followed by a few more rounds of "Keep on coming!"
Tourists can make their way through three sections of tunnels ranging from 150 to 650 feet in length. If you're claustrophobic or have a bad back or knees, you're probably better off staying above ground -- at least when it comes to the longer tunnels.
And don't worry: There's plenty to see above ground. A display of horrific spiked contraptions once hidden under trap doors in the jungle floor, craters left by bombs dropped from B-52s, abandoned U.S. tanks you can climb in, mannequins of North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong guerrillas -- it's like the Disneyland of Death and Destruction.
The whole experience gave me a better sense of what American soldiers went through. It's one thing to stand in front of a war memorial or monument; it's another to get down and dirty in the proverbial trenches, especially with the eerie sound of assault rifles blasting in the distance.
"If you want to shoot gun -- AK-47 or M16 -- you can do it ... $13 or $14 buys 10 bullets," says Nguyen Cao Van, my above-ground tour guide at Cu Chi. "If you don't want to shoot gun," he adds, "you can buy ice cream next door."
Just like Disneyland.
Nguyen's uncle was a colonel for the South Vietnamese army. After the war ended in 1975, his uncle spent seven years in a re-education camp.
"And he was a quick learner," Nguyen says.
Nguyen's wife is from North Vietnam. They tied the knot in 2005. Marriages between people from the North and South have become more common in the last few years, Nguyen says, now that animosity between both halves of the country has finally started to die down.
Before I arrived in Vietnam, I was a little worried that I might face lingering animosity over the American War, as they call it. When you carpet bomb a country and spray its landscape with Agent Orange, people might hold a grudge.
But the only accosting this Yank got was from overeager Vietnamese street vendors desperate to sell their bamboo bowls and other tchotchkes.
"What happened has happened," Nguyen says, adding that most people in Vietnam are too young to even remember the war. Some 55 million of the country's 87 million residents were born after Saigon's fall in 1975.
"We don't look to the past," he says. "We look to the future."
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Bai Tu Long Bay hosts hundreds of large and small islands of various charateristics.
The Vietnamese nation was invaded so often in ancient times that God was moved to send a dragon and its child to fight the enemies.
After the fighting was over, the dragon refused to return to heaven. The mother became Ha Long Bay (Descending Dragon) and her children, Bai Tu Long Bay (Dragon children cheering their mother). The children are beautiful, like the mother, but not as well known.
Located around 200 kilometers to the northeast of Hanoi, Bai Tu Long Bay includes the seas off Cam Pha Town, Ha Long Town and Van Don District.
The bay hosts hundreds of large and small islands of various characteristics. One island looks as if it were made by piling up stone bowls. Locals call it Dong Chen (Bowl Pile). Yet another, called Dua (chopstick), is like a giant chopstick lying on the water surface.
Quan Lan Island does not have a particularly striking shape like its neighbors, but it has sandy and rather wild beaches, like Ngoc Vung and Minh Chau, alongside a 300-year-old primeval forest.
The sixth lunar month is festival season on the island. No locals are allowed to leave, but visitors are welcome to join the festivities.
Other islands carry different flavors. Ban Sen Island, for instance, brings to tourists cups of tea produced from trees whose seeds were first sowed hundreds of years ago. Meanwhile, Minh Chau Island presents the pristine lifestyle of a fishing village.
Like its mother, Ha Long Bay has several caves such as Dong Trong Cave and Hang Quan Cave. The latter served as a Vietnamese army base during the Vietnam War.
Other attractions at the bay include temples dedicated to famous generals during the feudal period and seafood specialties like snout otter clams (Lutraria Rhynchaena), locally known as tu hai.
National ‘water park’
Covering nearly 16,000 hectares of land on 30 islands, Bai Tu Long National Park boasts considerable biodiversity with mangrove forests and coral reefs that are home to rare flora and fauna.
The park also has considerable archeological significance with scientists finding traces of people who lived there 14,000 years ago.
Located at the end of a mangrove forest, Doi (Bat) Cave is the home of thousands of bats and other animals like foxes and otters, while the Cai De Cave, about one kilometter away, goes through a range of mountains for about 500 meters at a maximum width of 60 meters.
Although the cave is decorated with stalactites and a plentiful source of marine life, visitors can only enter when the tide is low.
Cai De was proposed to be introduced to visitors in 2007, but nothing has been done so far to make this happen.
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Meeting at Vu Linh, Thac Ba lake, Ha Giang, Vietnam
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) was established in 1903, it was the world’s first international conservation organization and the pioneering work of its founders in Africa led to the creation of numerous protected areas, including Kruger and Serengeti National Parks.
SNV is a Netherlands-based international development organization that provides advice to local organizations in developing countries. SNV have 30 field offices and 1200 staff working mostly in poor and marginalized communities in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
With 3 day meetings in Vu Linh, leaders of tour operators and NGO’s representative have found the co-operated way to create responsible travel package and support the rural and ethnic community in travel industry such as house building, clean the rubbish on trails or in Halong bay.
Tour operators and NGOs have agreed to establish the club gathered by Tour Operators who support responsible and sustainable travel and NGOs who support poor communities and preserve flora and fauna in Vietnam National Parks and Reserves by funding responsible tourism projects in Vietnam.
ATA expresses a desire to promote Vietnam as Responsible and sustainable travel destination as well as become the leader of Tour Operators in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. ATA hopefully contributes to develop and promote responsible travel products in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
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Luxury Travel Vietnam is not only stay in luxury standard hotels and enjoys international food in expensive restaurants, Active Travel Asia (ATA) recommend travelers different luxury tour with trekking trip and homestay in Sapa, Vietnam.
At an elevation of 1,600 meters, Sapa is a delightful former French hill station situated in the mountainous region of Vietnam’s northwest, close to the Chinese border.
The region is home to many ethnic minority groups, each wearing traditional and colorful attire. This trip includes a trek through the hills and valleys of the Sapa region, discovering several different minorities along the way. Travelers will experience overnight accommodation in the hospitable villages of Giay and Tay ethnic minorities. The apparent hardships are worth it though as travelers walk through some of the most spectacular scenery that Vietnam has to offer and experience unique villages culture.
First day Travelers transfer from hotel in Hanoi to Hanoi Railway Station for the night train to Lao Cai.
Second day, Travelers will take 1hr bus ride uphill to the beautiful town of Sapa. The rides give travelers a glimpse of the stunning vistas and impressive rice terraces. Upon arrival in Sapa Town travelers have breakfast in local restaurant and prepare for a great trek down to the picturesque valley of Muong Hoa. Travelers will walk on small paths and trails to reach Tavan Village, where travelers will have unique homestay experience among hill tribe people and overnight in the local house in ethnic minority.
Third day, travelers will have breakfast in the local house before embarking upon another day of adventure. Today, travelers will trek across mountains, bamboo forest, terraces and streams to reach Ban Ho Village, a beautiful village at lotravelersr altitude and overnight in local house in ethnic minority.
Last day, travelers leave Ban Ho for Sapa. Travelers will trek shortly to the dirt road for a jeep ride back to Sa Pa. Back to the town travelers can take shower and change clothes in hotel.
Free at leisure in the afternoon. Travelers can explore the town on foot and have great shopping time in Sapa market. In the late afternoon, travelers transfer to Lao Cai for night train back to Hanoi.
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UNESCO lists five World Heritages in the country, but Adventure Beat editor Christian Kallen's list presents a more varied picture: the Eight Wonders of Vietnam.
If many of a certain generation tried to avoid going to Vietnam at all costs, now these same travelers may be tempted to explore a densely textured destination as historic, culturally rich and scenically stupefying as any country on Earth.
Adventure Beat editor Christian Kallen's "Eight Wonders" of Vietnam:
1) Ha Long Bay
Legend has it that the dragon that created civilization dove into these waters (Ha Long means "descending dragon") to his rest. There is a mythic, supernatural quality to this bay on the Gulf of Tonkin, east of Hanoi, that must be experienced to believe. Limestone "haystack" islands draped in jungle foliate erupt from the placid bay, fishermen in dragon-headed boats lay their nets, caves both above and below water level invite exploration. There are some 700 islands in the bay, and nowadays you can sea kayak among them with local tour operators — although in ancient times the Vietnamese general Tran Hung Dao outwitted the Chinese navy here.2) Hanoi's Old Quarter
Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi's Old Quarter, Vietnam
Few capitals necessarily qualify as "wonders" — Paris comes to mind — but Hanoi belongs in that class. It was first made capital of Vietnam in 1010 A.D., along a bend in the Red River, and even today, 996 years later, it's still a rush of urban energy and pastoral ease. Walk around the central district's Hoan Kiem Lake in the cool morning hours, while the locals do their daily tai chi; shop in the narrow streets of the Old Quarter where tradesmen have practiced in the same shops for up to 25 generations; dine European, Asian, or fusion at one of the many restored colonial mansions.
3) Cao Dai Temple
Even knowing in advance that the Cao Dai religion counts among its saints Victor Hugo, Louis Pasteur, and Sun Yat-Sen does little to prepare the visitor for the psychedelic splendor of its Holy See. Primary colors run riot over plaster dragons, flowers, and figurines crawling up the pillars and walls, while the all-seeing eye (a Masonic symbol also found on the US Great Seal) is everywhere. The temple is just a short drive from Ho Chi Minh City, and elaborate services and ceremonies are held almost daily.
4) Mekong Delta
Mekong Delta, Vietnam
The Mekong's route begins 2,500 miles upstream in Tibet, and its course through China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam is a waterway through the exotic. It flows into the South China Sea through a delta of many streams (its Vietnamese name, Cuu Long, means Nine Dragons), a fertile region known as "the ricebowl of Vietnam." The highlight for most visitors are the floating markets of Cai Be and Vinh Long, where you can get everything from fruits, flowers, and handicrafts to exotic snakes — and dishes as memorable as the “elephant's ear” fish (not endangered).
5) Tonkinese Alps
Fansipan Mountain, Sapa, Vietnam
The Tonkinese Alps create the barrier between Vietnam and China to the north, and their highest peak is Mount Fansipan (10,312 feet). Most people don't think of going to Vietnam to go mountain climbing, but consider this multi-day trek anyway, not only for its spectacular views into China but for the hilltribe villages you pass through en route. The route begins in Sapa, a popular tourist center in the midst of hill country, then forges through valleys of terraced rice fields into ever more remote villages peopled byanimistic minorities, such as the Dao, Hmong and Nung. Frommer's Guide on the Tokinese Alps.
6) Endangered Wildlife
Tram Chim National Park, Vietnam
With its centuries of warfare and commerce, napalm and revolution, it's hard to think of Vietnam as a wildlife hot spot, but it is becoming increasingly recognized as such. Exotic creatures such as several rare species of langurs, gibbons and monkeys; wild boars and the extremely rare brown-antlered deer vie with lizards, snakes and birds for life listers. Although habitat loss in this growing country is a problem, an even bigger one is the catholic appetite of the Vietnamese palate – and the illegal trade in endangered species and restaurants that serve them.
7) Phong Nha-Ke Bang
The most recent of Vietnam's World Heritage Sites is the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Travelers to Southeast Asia are well aware of the widespread karst formations of the region (Ha Long Bay is one such). Karst topography is limestone-based, riven with caves and cracks, given to weird shapes and striking vistas. The formations in Phong Nha-Ke Bang are among the world's oldest, 400 million years old; its geomorphology is complex and a motherlode for earth sciences.
8) Hoi An Village
Lanterns, Hoi An, Vietnam
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1999, Hoi An is the former main port of Vietnam in the 16th century, and today 844 of its historic structures are preserved as landmarks. You can walk down the crooked streets surrounded by the atmosphere and odors of times gone by, take a sampan ride down the Do River or the streams that lace the town, hunt the traces of the foreign traders – Japanese, Chinese, Dutch, and Indian – who made Hoi An the center of culture in old Vietnam. Helpful hint: visit during full moon, when the shop owners turn off the lights and illuminate the streets with candle lanterns.
Travelling in Sapa, few tourists miss an opportunity to trek to mountain villages and majestic waterfalls.
Cat Cat Village sits atop unspoiled landscapes and is a desirable destination for trekkers seeking to spend full days walking in a world of natural charm and tranquillity.
Visiting the village, tourists will discover various traditional trades of the local people such as weaving, jewellery manipulation, metal work and stone carvings.
The road from Sapa winds through hilly terrain, past terraced paddy fields. A sign reads "Welcome to Cat Cat Cultural Village", greeting visitors as they arrive at the entrance of the village.
A leisurely walk within the old village provides visitors with a better understanding of the traditional customs and practices of the ethnic Mong people that live here.
While wandering around the village, I continually asked the locals about their crafts and houses. I was curious about everything and the locals were friendly and ready to help. They also politely asked me to buy some hand-made souvenirs.
Visitors in Cat Cat have an opportunity to admire and watch locals sit with looms and create colourful pieces of brocade. When these pieces of brocade are finished, they are dyed and embroidered with beautiful designs of flowers and birds. Interestingly, Mong women use plants and leaves to dye the fabrics. After dyeing the fabric, they then roll a round, smooth piece of wood, covered with wax, over the material in order to polish. By doing this it helps to make the colours more durable on the fabric.
In addition to their weaving craft, many residents in Cat Cat are good at making gold and silver jewellery. Their products are quite sophisticated, especially the women’s jewellery.
Further into the village are waterfalls along with a stream that weaves its way around boulders, hills and mountains. The pristine stream is spanned by a suspension bridge, which offers a good view of the waterfalls and mountains.
The path after the bridge passes through bamboo forests filled with wild flowers and past tranquil brooks.
Another must-see village is Ta Phin, a remote village located 12km from the centre of Sapa, which still retains traditional customs and lifestyles of the Dao, Tay and Mong ethnic groups.
It’s recommended for tourists to catch a local xe om (motorbike taxi) at price of VND180,000 (US$10) in order to get there. Another option is to rent a motorbike for VND100,000 ($5.50) a day, which provides a convenient and interesting way to discover the landscape and villages.
Despite the winding road to the village, tourists can see picturesque rolling hills and terraced fields on the way. Much of the Sapa valley has been cultivated into verdant rice paddy fields equipped with irrigation systems.
Ta Phin Village seeks to capitalise from tourism and thus causes local children and adults to constantly follow visitors, in an effort to persuade them to buy wallets, hats, bags or fabric. However, these sellers tend to be friendly and hospitable.
The villagers often invite tourists to visit their homes, where they show them how they live and what they have, and tell about their families. Their living standard is still low, but their lives have been improved by the expanding tourism industry.
"We women are so active – not only do we grow vegetables and raise pigs and get wood for the fire, we also try to learn English so we can talk to tourists," said a 25-year-old Dao woman. "Before there were tourists we were very poor, but now we can make handicrafts, make money and meet people."
Ta Phin Village is able to win tourists’ hearts thanks to the beautiful sights that surround it. Lavie Waterfall is a common destination for trekkers. After trekking through forests, maize fields and mountains, tourists often enjoy soaking in Lavie Stream and sunbathing on flat boulders.
After a long day of walking on the curvy roads and hills around Sapa, it was pleasant to soak my bones and muscles in a traditional Dao herbal bath at Ta Phin.
The price was reasonable, VND60,000 ($3.30) for a one-hour bath. Soaking in medicinal waters may make you feel a little tipsy. When you start feeling dizzy, it’s time to get out of the wooden bathtub. After the soak, I finally felt relaxed. The herbal bath was good for my health, mind and bones.
I was very happy to have a chance to travel to Sapa. I will never forget how it felt to stand in front of imposing, beautiful mountains. — VNS
Source: Minh Thu/ Vietnamnews
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