The best way we were going to experience Sapa was to hike it. Well, after a thirty minute ride out of town to the starting point. It was still damp outside so we knew our shoes may not be coming home with us. We planned for this. And yeah, by the end of the day they were too muddy to put back into our luggage. Though, at the train station we found people who would gladly clean our shoes for a small fee. We had declined given our premeditated fate of our shoes.
Our hike started with a greeting from our tour guide and several Hmong ladies. There were almost one for each of us, five of us and four of them. We tried our best to have little interaction with them knowing what’s going to happen at the end. But how can you turn away simple banter.
“Hi, where are you from?”
“What’s your name?”
“How long are you staying?”
And along the way they were giving us a hand and making little things for us. So it was impossible to avoid them completely. When they weren’t trying to talk to us, we took in the air and marveled at the scenery. You need to go here if you’re ever in Northern Vietnam. Next time I would probably come straight here and spend a week wandering these fields. Even when it’s not the best time of year, it was still beautiful.
We went through two villages Lao Chai and Ta Van. Lao Chai was where the tourist trap began and ended. You’ll read all about this on other sites. It’s true. They’ll try to guilt you into buying stuff, but they can’t argue when you didn’t bring too much money. We did give some money to our Hmong ladies for their help. Having an extra set of hands as you climbed through muddy paths probably saved us from an embarrassing fall. Kudos for that. Not so much for the tenacious selling frenzy that unloaded onto one of our group members. She decided to buy something and that my friends was like blood in the water for these sharks. They swarmed her. Hope she got something good out of it. Our tour guide mentioned something interesting. There are more villagers following tour groups because the harvest was over. Since they’re not tending the fields, they’ll try and make money with the tourists. Can’t blame them for tying to earn a little extra.
After Lao Chai it was smooth sailing. The Hmong ladies stayed back and we were off walking the roads. By the time we got to Ta Van, we had lunch and decided to head back home. The paths were only getting muddier and we were already exhausted. All in all we hiked for about 4 hours. Not bad.
Verdict: I know this wasn’t food related, but I highly recommend doing this. Probably with a private guide that can fend off the villagers. Still, do this!