Sapa, located in the mountainous region of Vietnam, is an undiscovered treasure worth exploring. This enchanting destination captivates visitors with its breathtaking natural landscapes, including picturesque rice terraces, mystical valleys, and awe-inspiring peaks. Additionally, Sapa serves as a vibrant cultural center, boasting a rich tapestry of customs and traditions upheld by diverse ethnic minority communities. Allow me to share my personal adventures and the incredible experiences I had in Sapa, unveiling the multitude of activities awaiting you in this remarkable place.
While Sapa may be considered a somewhat challenging destination to reach, there is a convenient and hassle-free way to get there. Instead of enduring a long and tiring journey, I suggest taking a flight to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. From Hanoi, you can opt for a comfortable sleeper bus service, and I highly recommend Soa Viet. The bus ride from Hanoi to Sapa typically takes around 4 to 5 hours.
Departing at midnight, I arrived in Sapa between 5 and 5:30am, only to be caught off guard by the chilly weather. So, ensure you pack suitable winter clothing or jackets as Sapa’s temperature can drop as low as -3 degrees Celsius during the winter season. Fortunately, it was only around 12 degrees Celsius during my visit.
Throughout my time in Sapa, I noticed that local taxis were the primary transportation option. Since popular ride-hailing services like Grab and Gojek were not available in this small town, tourists should opt for their local taxis typically operated on a flat rate system, charging around 100,000 Vietnamese Dong (equivalent to 5.80 Singapore Dollars) for different destinations within Sapa.
In Sapa, we were greeted by the breathtaking sight of rice fields and our accommodation was situated directly above them. It was truly a delight to wake up to this mesmerizing view each morning. Occasionally, the town’s high altitude resulted in misty conditions, adding an enchanting touch to the surroundings. Apart from that, the visual experience was simply remarkable.
While I mentioned earlier those taxis charged a fixed rate of 100,000 Vietnamese Dong, we opted for a different mode of transportation: renting automatic motorbikes to explore the area. Each motorbike cost us at least 180,000 VND (equivalent to 10.30 SGD) per day. However, I strongly advise renting a motorbike only if you possess a license or feel comfortable navigating through the sometimes-chaotic traffic in Sapa. Safety should always be a top priority when travelling.
Sapa exudes a remarkable charm and elegance. Despite its small size, Sapa possesses a vibrant atmosphere that is both captivating and easy to navigate. Unlike other commercialized parts of Vietnam, Sapa remains refreshingly unspoiled, to the extent that even fast-food chains like McDonald’s are absent. Instead, local cuisine takes center stage, with delectable dishes, including their renowned Pho, offering a comforting way to combat the cold weather.
Interestingly, the town itself evokes memories of Nepal, perhaps due to its mountainous setting. However, what truly sets Sapa apart is its lively nightlife. While you won’t find clubs or bars here, the town comes alive with vibrant lights, creating a colorful ambiance where people gather, socialize, and simply enjoy one another’s company. It was an absolute delight to unwind and soak up the relaxed atmosphere during the evenings in Sapa.
When it comes to activities in Sapa, there are a plethora of options to choose from. High-adrenaline elements, sightseeing opportunities, and engaging in traditional activities are all available in this remarkable destination. However, due to the limited duration of my stay, we were only able to prioritize two main activities and fully immerse ourselves in them.
The first activity I embarked on in Sapa was the glass bridge. Picture this: the town itself is already situated 2,000 meters above sea level, and the glass bridge stands even higher, requiring you to take a glass elevator to reach it. Once at the top of the hill, you are asked to wear shoe covers to prevent any staining or slipping on the glass surface. I must admit, when I reached the top, my legs were trembling. Standing approximately 2,500 meters above sea level, you’ll definitely realize how overwhelming the vast distance from the ground is. I found myself clinging to the railings most of the time, as the height made me feel unsteady. However, the view from the top was absolutely breathtaking. It is worth noting that the wind up there is exceptionally strong.
Additionally, there were mini activities available at the glass bridge, such as a floating bridge and flying foxes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to partake in these high-element adventures, as the area closes down by 5 PM. However, if you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, I highly recommend trying out these activities for yourself. Just be sure to plan accordingly within the operating hours.
Mount Fansipan is undeniably the crown jewel of Sapa. The town of Sapa itself is blessed with its presence, with the attraction being just a short distance from the town center. When visiting Mount Fansipan, you have two options to reach its summit, which stands at an impressive 3,147 meters above sea level. The first is to embark on a two-day, one-night hiking adventure, while the second is to opt for the more conventional approach and take the cable car, which transports you to the peak in a mere 20 minutes. The cable car ride comes at an approximate cost of 500,000 Vietnamese Dong, equivalent to around 29 SGD.
In my case, I decided to take the cable car and I must admit that it was the most exhilarating and nerve-wracking cable car ride I have ever experienced. After all, we were ascending a mountain’s summit. As I gazed out of the window, I found myself above the clouds, and at times, the cable car even ventured into the misty embrace of the clouds. I remember gripping the chair tightly, unable to shake off the feeling of fear, awe and wonder.
Upon disembarking from the cable car, we found ourselves immersed in a dense mist. It became evident that we were surrounded by clouds, adding to the mystical ambiance of the experience. In line with the prevailing theme, the wind at that altitude was incredibly powerful.
To conquer the remaining 147 meters to reach the summit, there was a tram available for a fee of 100,000 Vietnamese Dong. Alternatively, one could opt to climb the stairs. We decided to take the tram up and descend via the stairs. The tram transported us upwards, and as we reached the peak, a breathtaking sight unfolded before our eyes. Some might argue that this panoramic view epitomized the essence of Vietnam itself. As I gazed straight ahead, all I could see was an expanse of clouds, with the sun seemingly at eye level, casting its warm glow upon us. It was truly a mesmerizing sight. My friends and I spent ample time at the summit, capturing photographs and simply revelling in the awe-inspiring vista.
As we made our way down, we soon discovered that the area encompassed more than just the summit itself. Descending further, we found ourselves entering what appeared to be a small, ancient town. Shrouded in mist, with clouds enveloping the surroundings, the atmosphere was truly magnificent. With each step, the town gradually unveiled its charm, evoking imagery reminiscent of an old kung fu movie, where a student embarks on a journey to a hidden mountain city to learn the art of kung fu. The mist added a touch of eeriness, as if we had stumbled upon an abandoned town straight out of a horror film. In simple terms, it was an extraordinary experience.
Continuing our descent, we noticed a silhouette in the distance, growing larger as we drew nearer. Finally reaching the silhouette, we were met with a colossal three-story Buddha statue. The sight was nothing short of awe-inspiring. For avid movie enthusiasts, it felt as though we had stepped into a scene from a grand cinematic production.
After capturing more memorable photographs, we descended and made our way back to the cable car station for our return journey to the town center of Sapa. Once there, we sought out a cozy dinner spot. After a day of exploring attractions amidst chilly winds and cold temperatures, Pho proved to be the perfect choice.
Arriving back in the lively town center, the vibrant atmosphere was palpable. We headed to a local Pho shop for a satisfying meal, and afterward, decided to treat ourselves to a foot massage, priced at a reasonable 120,000 Vietnamese Dong (around 13 SGD) for a rejuvenating 30-minute session. It was incredible value for the price, as the masseurs went above and beyond, not only focusing on the feet but also extending their expertise to massage our backs, shoulders, and heads. It was a delightful indulgence and an excellent deal indeed.
All in all, Sapa proves to be an ideal destination for those yearning for a getaway. It offers a remarkable escape from the bustling city life, providing a tranquil and rejuvenating experience. The peaceful ambiance and serene surroundings make it the perfect place to unwind. Sapa not only offers breathtaking natural beauty but also immerses visitors in captivating cultural experiences. Additionally, the thrilling high-element attractions add an extra layer of excitement for adventure enthusiasts. Overall, Sapa is a fantastic holiday destination that combines relaxation, cultural immersion, and thrilling adventures, making it an ideal choice for a memorable vacation.