Vietnam is up there as a favourite holiday destination- there is much to see including beaches, mountains and lively cities. After a two week holiday, I felt like I had only scratched the surface of what Vietnam has to offer.
See my post on Northern Vietnam highlights, in particular Sapa, Halong Bay and Hanoi.
Wanting to experience the real Vietnam we opted for the local overnight train from Hanoi, instead of the more expensive trains normally booked by Westerners. It was comfortable, although on the top bunk bed, I feared that I may fall off and so didn’t have the deepest of sleeps!
As you pull into the Sapa village, you immediately feel yourself unwind, taking in the spectacular views of mountains all around you; – feeling a million miles away from daily life never felt so good!
Sapa is located on the border between Vietnam and China and is home to many ethnic minority groups from Laos, China, Vietnam and Thailand. Each group wears brightly coloured hand-made clothing worn a different way depending on the tribe.
I did a walking tour with the Hmong people, which gave an opportunity to see how these groups live off the land and with minimal electricity. This gave a rich insight to the village life and I found it interesting to learn that when a woman is married, a dowry of a pig or the money equivalent would be offered, and men may have more than one wife.
Their livelihood relies on produce and rice, and on the tour you can admire the man-made, sculpted rice terraces, shaped this way for its growth.
Walking tour cost is $20USD
Be careful, in the Sapa town the tribes are keen to sell their bags/clothing etc. Don’t encourage this too much, as they will follow you until you buy something.
It’s great to hire a motorbike in Sapa, I didn’t drive, but it was lovely to ride on a motorbike in this region.
Sapa View Hotel costs $20 per night. The staff were helpful; try to ask for a view of the mountains here.
We took a local Vietnamese bus to Halong Bay, which stopped frequently for local Vietnamese en route to Halong Bay, as the company was keen to fill every seat!
After Halong Bay become Unesco listed, it was decided all boats in the bay must be white in colour, and from an aesthetic point of view this has strong impact.
The evening on the boat was my first taste of how seriously the Vietnamese take karaoke. They blasted the karaoke music to the point where it almost hurt your ears, and boy did they like to express themselves!! There weren’t many non Vietnamese willing to take on the crew with singing, except for one English girl who wasn’t fazed at all.