Many Vietnam travel packages begin in the Country’s capital, Hanoi where there is much to see and do. From Hanoi, there is a choice, east to Halong Bay or north into the Northern Highlands close to the border with China where the Sapa Terraces have become a much-photographed location. The transport infrastructure heading north is good and for eight months in the year, the Terraces are a highlight. The tribes grow their rice in the Terraces in the spring when the shimmering water makes a great photo. As the green shoots come through there is more colour, richer by the week before the Terraces turn golden at harvest time.
North West Vietnam is around 1,500 metres above sea level and includes Fanispan, the highest mountain in the Country. The town of Sapa has just 3,300, a little above 10% of the population with around 50% being H’mong and a further 25% Dao. It is a peasant farming region with the rice terraces a most interesting place to enjoy. You can walk around the town, hike in the hills or even explore them on a motorbike. Whichever you go, there are some things you must see:
• Sapa Town’s location in wonderful, set below the mountains and terraces. There is a museum behind the tourist office where tourists can learn more about the past. There are some buildings that are remnants of the French colonial era; the church and town hall. There is a lovely lake just 5 minutes’ walk from the church.
• The Terraces are bare after the autumn harvest until the villagers are ready to sow the rice in the spring. The water shimmers until the shots emerge and for several weeks they appear in different shades of green until harvest time when they are golden. A lovely sight.
• Fanispan Mountain is Vietnam’s highest peak but if you wish to visit it, it is important to take a guide and certainly not go alone.
• Heaven’s Gate and the waterfall are lovely. A wide-angled lens in your camera is a must to take in all that is around you.
• Ta Phin Village is one of a number in the region. You can travel by motorbike or vehicle and really get to know the local people and their daily lives.
• Sapa stadium is a place to visit where there is evening entertainment; many traditional tunes, dancing and music. It is the centre of the town and hence a place where many locals gather in their spare time.
Until you actually go and see Sapa, you may not appreciate how really beautiful it is. A Hanoi travel agent will give you plenty of help and advice as well as making all the arrangements for your visit. Sapa may well be towards the start of your Vietnam tour if you begin by arriving at Hanoi International Airport. It will be an early glimpse of how beautiful the Country is, and when you return home later, Sapa is likely to remain long in the memory.