We arrived in Sapa Friday afternoon. We stayed at Go Sapa Hostel on the top of the hill right above the Main Street in town. The hostel was recently renovated and now resembles a Scandinavian lodge- wooden, sleek and modern. While the hostel is designed well it is not made for winter months. The common area is completely outdoors (a small fireplace does not provide enough warmth) and the rooms are freezing at night.
The town looks exactly like a European ski village. A small Main Street packed with western restaurants and cafes- Italian food is the most common. Local women dressed in traditional costume line the sidewalks selling traditional clothes and accessories to tourists.
The weather was better than we expected although still not ideal. The daytime was warm and sunny but around 4pm the weather dropped and nighttime felt like winter, minus snow. I wore multiple layers everyday since none of my clothes were actually winter clothes.
Our first night we walked all around town and had dinner at one of the few Vietnamese restaurants. A bunch of the restaurants in town have set menu options for dinner, which we decided to have. For $5 we each got pumpkin soup, spring rolls, tofu and eggplant baked in a clay pot, rice, and fruit for dessert. All the portions were actually size so the set menu is a fantastic deal.
After dinner we went home to relax. There are a couple bars in town but none seemed too appealing. There’s one western spot that’s overpriced and one local club that’s too loud for a mountain village town. Our room that night was icy. We asked for a heater from reception which didn’t make much of a difference in room temperature, and we were told the next morning that it’s $2.50 a night to use it. We didn’t use it again.
I woke up the next morning with what I think is the flu. I felt awful but determined to see the rice terraces, which was the whole point of coming to Sapa.
We walked to Cat Cat Village the next day. The walk took about 25 minutes down a winding road. Although the village is original it is now designed for tourists. A pathway leads you through the houses and shops. Local women sell local costumes and accessories on the side of the pathway, and local children wander the pathway selling jewelry. There were pigs, chickens, buffalo and dogs roaming the grounds. The famous rice terraces were everywhere and could be seen from any angle. The terraces were beautiful although not as green and lush as they appear in the summer months.
At 2pm there was a traditional dance show in the town theater near the waterfall. I admit I didn’t watch much of the show because I was busy taking pictures of three local boys who came in and sat in front of me. They were about 4 years old, all covered in dirt and excited to watch the show. After the show Scotland caught their attention with his iPhone6 and we all took photos with them.
We then walked through the remaining part of town, over a creaky bridge, and caught motorbikes back to town. Scotland and I rode the same motorbike, it was the first time I rode one with three people. That night a bunch of us went into town and Scotland and I shared a mixed meat hot pot. From there we went to Mountain Bar and Pub (the western expensive bar.) I drank tea and we all played foosball on the oldest table we’ve ever seen- if was covered in about an inch of dust. The game got incredibly intense which was fun.
I woke up the next morning just as sick as the day before so decided not to go out with the group for the day. I missed seeing all the good stuff- Silver and Love waterfalls, going to Ta Phin village (with the most famous rice terraces,) and Tram Ton Pass, but I couldn’t force myself out for a second day in a row. Instead I slept in, then went to Le Petit Gecko and had an outdoor lunch of tuna Niçoise salad and ginger tea. After lunch I had an hour foot massage, bought an Asian pear, then headed back home to relax.
When the group came back they said the day was ok but not spectacular and that they mostly just biked around the whole time. The waterfalls weren’t running, and the village was similar enough to Cat Cat village from the day before. I’m happy I decided to stay back and relax.
That night I went to dinner alone at the local restaurant. There’s a section over local restaurants above the Main Street and I thought that would be the best place to get plain noodle soup. I walked into the first place mostly because I didn’t have energy to search and they all looked identical. My dinner ended up being a nightmare and I wish I had looked around.