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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Essential Tips for trekking Sapa

Behind Halong Bay, Sapa is the second most favourite spot for almost travelers when arrive Vietnam. Sapa is located in the Northern Vietnam, the region with many mountains, rice terraces and tribal villages. Certainly, with the unique climate in Sapa, you are always be put in the frequent rain storms as well as cloudy condition. However,  this shouldn’t be a deterrent, it requires a bit of extra preparation when rainy .

Rain, rain, rain – Always rain
If you felt like you’re unlucky travelers who visit Sapa during, or within a week after a bad rain storm, don’t upset, you are likely in a statistical majority. Unfortunately, the home stay treks and many days treks are on steep grades of dirty trails. Our first day of trekking to the home stay was full of uninterrupted showers, producing even muddier trails for second day of hike. Almost everyone slipped or fell over at least one, with yours truly falling twice on the second day and getting a fair share of souvenir mud on my belongings.

Sapa always in the wet, cloudy and mud conditions during summer

To be prepared, every village shops sell know-off items for all conditions. The sellers can be shewed in the bartering process, especially during the inclement weather where essential items are sold at inflated prices. Honestly, reusable double-lined rain coat is a life saver, and full on water boots are necessary things even if just for two days. If you can get these down to 100,000 or 120,000 VN during a rain period, no doubt that your bartering are solid. You can always sell the rain boots after and break even on the investment!

Homestay should be a priority
Make sure that you don’t miss the homestay. A village homestay should be a must for those want to explore the real life in Sapa. Not just for the experience of staying with local families, but for enjoying some of the most beautiful parts of the region. You can try to get outside of Sapa village, the more the scenery presents itself, and homestay provides the opportunity to get there.

Staying at homestay provides travelers the best way to enjoy the amazing nature of Sapa

Normally, homestay is the dorm room built as an addition to most family home, and it is said that people can only see the actual and traditional life of people on the second night. Thus if you want to discover about lifestyle of locals, you should arrange to spend 2 nights with them before leaving.

“Will you buy from me?”a
All trekkers are likely have their fair share of local villagers who follow them during the trek in hope of making a sale when reaching their village. These local women may make you feel annoying by keep asking you “Please buy something to me”  at first, but you will recognize their invaluable assistance during the bad weather as they point out the proper trails, hold hands, and are nothing less than a saving grace for the many of potential falls that could happen.

Some local women follow you during the trek with hope that you'll buy something

Of course, if you get as much help, a $5 tip is the least you can do, most of them would be greatful for just $2 for helping on a three hours or more hour hike. However, do not buy anything from one person because the others will soon flock to you and say “You bought from her but not from me, something small?” and can generally become annoying very quickly.

Overall, Sapa is an amazing destination even when hiking the worst rain and mud conditions.  Part of me wishes, however, that I knew how bad it was going on be in advance in order to be fully prepared for the trek ahead and save a few pair of clothes in process that have since been scrapped due to the mud. I would not discourage anyone from travelling to Sapa if the forecast is rain, but be sure to be fully prepared when you go! You won’t regret it!


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