laocaiWe arrived in Lao Cai (a border crossing point into China) at 5:30am and needed to find a mini-bus to take us 1 hour up into the hills to the old French hill station of Sapa.  At 1600m it was a cool retreat from the relentless hot temperatures. 

We got slightly done on the price of the trip – but we are over that now.  The worst part was waiting the 40 minutes for all the seats on the mini-bus to be filled.

In Sapa town we had some breakfast, found our hotel and dropped our bags as we were way too early to check in.


Andrew visited Sapa in 2000 and the changes since then have been exponential and not necessarily for the better. The scenery around the town is stunning and the ethnic tribes walking around in tribal dress are very interesting and tourists arrive in droves.  

mainly hmong 
Red Dzao and others

Sadly tourists have changed the social norms in the town and people try make their living by selling you trinkets, relentlessly.  It means children will forgo school and be sent to Sapa from the villages to earn money. Old women who traditionally would have looked after the small children walk to town to sell trinkets. There are street kids and this side of things is totally unappealing. To get the tourist dollar there are more Italian and western restaurants than there are Vietnamese restaurants.  And as seen below they ladies do follow the tourists – “shopping”, “you buy from me”, “looking”, “you want” ….

Tourists being hounded

On the plus side with some research we managed to find some very good food, our (expensive) hotel room had a superb view of the hills, and the weather was sunny.

We ate well at the Natureview, Red Dzao & Sapa Rooms restaurants. 

It was Sunday and many villagers had come to town for church and the daily market.  In the town centre we watched the Hmong Boys having stilt walking competitions and a competitive game involving spinning tops and with rules we had zero understanding of.

Hmong boy games

We walked through the local village, Cat Cat.  Thankfully we went early about 7:30am and avoided all the ladies that trail the tourists around the route.

Sapa was a lovely setting, but very touristy and very busy.

Sapa busy

But that said, there were some lovely moments too

watching themselves

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