During his Vietnam tour, our very own Enchanter Suraj Somaiah was lucky to experience a magical sojourn in Sapa Valley. This is his story.
In the misty Hoang Lien Mountains, in the furthest reaches of the Himalayan chain, lies the town of Sapa. The town is tucked neatly into the Muong Hoa valley of northernmost Vietnam. Sapa is home to the Mountain Hmong people, who terrace these soaring mountains, growing rice on their picturesque ridges.
Thousands of terraces that the Hmong have carved into the steep sides of the mountains stretch out into the horizon in every direction you turn.
Black Hmong, Red Hmong, Flower Hmong, Green Hmong, Striped Hmong and even Variegated Hmong – we saw them all during our Vietnam tour. Perhaps the names are a legacy of the profusion of seriously retina-shattering colors the people were wearing, and then the sub-groups of all of these.
Sapa is like that – even in April! Thousands of terraces that the Hmong have carved into the steep sides of the mountains stretch out into the horizon in every direction you turn. These have not yet been planted with the green shoots of rice that will transform the region into a carved verdigris bowl for seven months of the year.
Gazing at that view I have visions of Shangri La, and lines of poetry flow easily into my mind
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
Is that what Sapa is? An enchanted place at the summit of the world? It certainly seems that way.
And I am not perturbed at all when I am surrounded once again by a gaggle of smiling Enchantresses of the Purse, saying, “What’s your name? Where you from? Buy from me.”
March to May in the best time to travel to Sapa during your Vietnam tour, when warm days and cool nights welcome you into the valley. Temperatures range between 16 to 22 degree Celsius and a pleasant breeze and sometimes a light drizzle accompanies you everywhere.
Sapa is known for its charming Hill Tribe Market where you will find everything from fresh produce to beautiful fabric. If you are looking for famous ethnic local brocades during your Vietnam tour, this market is the perfect.
Sapa is known as Northern Vietnam’s principal trekking base. Take a bike ride through the meandering mountain roads, or trek to nearby villages to meet the locals and enjoy exquisite views of the valley and the lush paddy fields.
Apart from colorful rice terraces carved into the lofty hills, and enchanting scenery throughout the year, Sapa is famous for the twinkling Love Waterfalls, just 30 minutes from the town. Uphill from the waterfalls, lies the breathtaking Heaven’s Gate where you’ll see the Fansipan Mountains – the highest in Indochina, defiantly rearing their head towards the blue, blue sky.
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