Travel Where to Wander

Sapa Secrets for Your Adventure

Sapa is the crown jewel of North Vietnam in our opinion. We felt immersed in Northern Vietnamese culture, surrounded by jaw-dropping mountains covered in rice paddies and dotted with villages. The only thing better than the views are the locals. We learned a lot of Sapa secrets we want to share with you!

There is a lot to do in Sapa, so on your own trip you’d better get at least 3 or 4 days, hopefully more. Here’s our tips and secrets we learned on our own adventure in Sapa.

Getting There

We took a night bus from Hanoi to Sapa, and oh boy we have some things to say about it. Number one, it got us there. That was about the only good part.

Number two, probably the worst night’s ‘sleep’ we’ve ever gotten. In Vietnam drivers are not shy about honking. You might think the honking dies down in the middle of the night, but you have another thing coming! Even our driver was honking every ten minutes!

Number three, no bathroom breaks. The story in this Instagram post about Julie trying to pee in a bottle while I was arguing with the driver via Google Translate is 100% true. I think she got about half her stream in the bottle, the rest sprayed onto my blanket, thanks honey…

Number four, you get to Sapa at 4 am. What in the world are we supposed to do in Sapa at 4 am? Nothing is open, and unless you can check-in at that time you are out of luck! Thankfully, our friend at Eco Palms (more on that later) was a lifesaver.

Needless to say, we do not recommend the night bus. Learn from our mistakes! Take the train or a car.

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Story time: On the night bus up to Sapa from Hanoi (6 hours overnight sleeper bus) I got woken up from two people at the same time: the driver demanding money even though we prepaid, and Julie demanding a bathroom. Being the multi-tasker I am, I whipped up an empty water bottle for Jules while I fired up a Google translate argument with this fella. It is 3 am, haven’t gotten a wink of sleep, and I am trying to ignore the sound of pee hitting the seat (Julie has some bad aim) while I am fumbling with a translator hoping this guy doesn’t boot us off the bus right then and there in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully we made it to our home-stay, but unfortunately for Julie and anyone in her vicinity, we couldn’t grab a shower until later that afternoon 😷👀

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Where We Stayed

On our trip to Sapa we stayed at the Eco Palms House, and would HIGHLY recommend it. You can book your own bungalow or grab a bed in the friendly house. We tried both! The private bungalow is epic, but bunking up worked just fine too. You aren’t in Sapa just to hang out at the place anyways, just somewhere to sleep!

The owner/manager is the friendliest person we’ve ever met. Ever. After our treacherous night bus experience, he fielded our call at 4am and directed us to the Eco Palms, which we of course had ZERO idea how to find. We would have been shit outta luck for 4 hours in the rain without him!

The best part about this place is the food. The attached restaurant has UNBELIEVABLY good pho. We got it every day twice a day while we were here. We also shared some rice wine with the owner and mingled with the other tourists. All in all, Eco Palms was right up at the top of the best places we stayed in Southeast Asia!

Trekking the Rice Fields

Hiking is of course our favorite thing to do, so we woke up on day 1 ready to go! We booked a guide through Eco Palms, and after some morning pho we got moving.

We trekked through Lao Chai and Ta Van, and had a day full of stunning scenery and immersion in the Hmong culture. We walked and talked with our guide for a full 10 miles through the village, the time flew by. We even took selfies with a buffalo! If you head to Sapa, you have got to go on a trek. If you don’t, then we’re not friends.

Hiking advice from thatbackpacker.com:

There are full-day hikes and even half-day hikes (like Cat Cat Village) which you may want to attempt on your own, however, if you want to spend a few days experiencing the hillside I would recommend hiring a local guide who is familiar with the terrain, the changes in weather, and the best lookout spots.

Treks are easy to arrange once you arrive in Sapa, so don’t bother making bookings in advance as it’ll be cheaper to do so in person. I booked my guided tour through my hotel in Sapa, but you can also book tours through the main tourism office or the various tour operators found in town. Most of the guides are local and they speak great English, so know that you’re giving back to the local community when you book a trekking guide.

Love Waterfall

Love Waterfall is quite a beaut! You’ll need to take a cab to get there, but the cabs are extremely inexpensive and it is definitely worth the trip. Plus you get a short hike to get to the waterfall!

Fansipan

To be honest we did not know about Fansipan before getting to Sapa. We asked a few locals what we should do with our time, and literally every one told us to head to Fansipan, and OH MY GOODNESS we are glad we listened.

This place is literally on top of the world. A temple above the clouds. The pictures look fake, but believe me they are not! We am not good enough at Photoshop to make these bad boys…

You can take a gondola up or strap on your hiking shoes for the ascent. We recommend hiking if you have the time, but you better dedicate the entire day to it!

Wildlife

There were animals EVERYWHERE in Sapa. Literally just walking around the villages. Cats and dogs all over the place, buffalo roaming the streets, goat and chicken gangs here and there, even a tortoise if you’re lucky!

More from Christina’s Blog:

Apart from the rocky mountain ranges, the verdant fields and never-ending rice paddies will make you fall in love with Sapa. Home to countless local species of birds, animals, and plants, this is every nature lover’s paradise.

Get up early in the morning to witness the sun rising from the clouds and watch small villages appear from the mist as if by magic. Wander through dense forests and hear only the sounds of the flora and fauna, and travel through small villages where kids will come to greet you with a high-five and a huge smile.

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