Treking has become a large tourist attraction in South East Asia. One place that is particularly popular that I have been to is Sapa, Vietnam. Situated in the mountains of northern Vietnam, it is only a short distance from the Chinese border.
I was there in April of 2004. I booked the excursion through a tour shop in the Old Quarter district of Hanoi a few days before I wanted to go. It included the train ride, bus ride, tour, and accomodation.
I caught a night train from Hanoi to NAMEOFTOWN. The air conditioning was ridiculously cold and all I had was thin bed sheet to cover me, but the trip was smooth nonetheless. We arrived in the early morning. There were two bunk beds in the berth so we shared travel stories with our berth mates.
When I arrived, we boarded a bus to take us the rest of the way in Sapa. It has a variety of guest houses and hotels brought on by the tourist industry. Since our tour was for a couple days, the hotel offered us laundry service while we were away. We could also leave or full size backpacks in a locked room and just use day packs for the trek.
We met our guide, Cham, later in the morning at the hotel we were storing our luggage at. She was a young native girl around 16 years old. Most of the trek guides appeared to be this age or younger. They speak amazing English and are fun to hang out with because of their young nature. Our group was the guide, myself, and two other people. A perfectly sized group.
We started to walk down from Sapa. The scenery is amazing. They are situated in lush mountains. There is terrace farming all along the vallies and they grow rice and corn primarily. Water buffalo cool themselves in the flooded terraces in the heat of the day.
The locals are all part of the native population and wear unique looking clothes and styles. We swam in the river just below a little waterfall with some of the young boys in the afternoon. They are all very friendly.
We stayed the night at her family’s house farther down the valley. They served a nice meal and some of the other treking groups stayed at the same house. Everyone visited and ate late into the evening. The next morning the hike was on again as we went farther down the valley. I was worred about getting back, but we worked our way to the other side of the valley where a minibus picked us up to take us back to Sapa.
If you are in Vietnam and have the opportunity to visit and trek in Sapa I would definitely recommend it. The scenery and experience was amazing.