Sapa in the Northern Highlands of Vietnam near the Chinese border is one of the poorest regions of Vietnam; it is also one of the most beautiful, located at over 1.500 metres above sea level. The Terraces of Sapa are famous for rice. The locals flood the hillside terraces and plant rice. As the shoots emerge and grow the shimmering appearance changes to green and finally at harvest time gold. Vietnam packages covering the north of the country will usually include Sapa because of its beauty and the ethnic hill tribes whose lives have changed little over generations.
Tourists on holiday in Vietnam and especially interested in the natural environment are certain to have Sapa and the Northern Highlands on their itinerary. The local economy has certainly been boosted by tourists who are coming to see this beautiful part of Vietnam. It is important that Sapa remains unspoilt though that does not mean that extra revenue is not most welcome. Life is not easy for the locals yet they remain cheerful, respectful and welcoming. If you are interested in shopping in Sapa while you are there then here are a couple of places for you to go:
• Sapa Market is the obvious place to head for. The Hmong and Dao tribes live here and their market opens every Saturday evening and again on Sunday. Goods are handmade; clothing, accessories and jewellery. It is not just the goods that should attract you there. There is traditional music and singing that will give every tourist a further insight into the people. The following day browse the stalls and look at the ethnic food and vegetables, wine and fruit. Be careful because some of the clothing is ‘’Made in China.’’
• Some of the local shops in Sapa Town to look for are Lan Rung, Muong Hoa, Wild Orchid, Thien Viet and Hue Silk offer handicrafts, Viet Silver and Sapa Silver jewellery and the Stone-carving Shop.
• Bac Ha Market is 60 kilometres from Lao Cai. It also offers local products from the Highlands. The dresses are especially bright with beautiful patterns. The friendly people are not hard bargainers but neither should you be because they will never be looking for too much of your money. It is almost as though they are delighted that you like something they have made.
It is worth looking at the fruits and herbs of the area. Some of the herbs are medicinal remedies which are an alternative to modern medicines. There will be mushrooms and bulbs which you might like to take back with you.
When you go travelling in Vietnam one of the real pleasures is the natural environment and the people living in remote regions. Their lives are hard but they seem to take daily work in their stride. If you like the things you see when you walk around the market, then buy. Nothing will be expensive and a ‘’tourist dollar’’ goes a long way, much further than you can imagine.