[Wanderlust Tips January issue 2018] Travel to Sa Pa in the afternoon, where to go and what to do to have the most enjoyable experiences? Here are eight suggestions from Wanderlust Tips.
1. SAPA’S STONE CHURCH – SAPA’S TOURISM ICON
The Holy Rosary Church, commonly known as the Stone Church of Sapa, was built in 1895, and is located in the heart of town. It is the only ancient French architectural structure left in Sapa. The building was built in the shape of a cross. The typical style of Roman Gothic architecture is reflected in the building’s rooftop, bell tower and arches, which are pyramid-shaped, lending the building its elegance.
Top tips: The Stone Church is a favourite place of tourists for taking photos. You can admire the building from a nearby cafe and feel Sapa’s atmosphere during morning hours.
Cuisine: Sao Dem Café (Pham Xuan Huan Road), Good Morning Vietnam Restaurant (Fansipan Road), Bich Ngoc Restaurant (Fansipan Road).
2. HAM RONG MOUNTAIN – SAPA’S FAIRY
Ham Rong Mountain or Ham Rong resort is located in the heart of Sapa and covers an area of nearly 150 hectares. The park features a pristine natural landscape filled with unique wild plants and moss rocks. During your hike, you can admire the most beautiful scenery of the orchid and stone garden, Heaven’s Gate, and Cloud Courtyard.
Top tips: The climb to the mountain is fairly convenient; simply follow the path to reach the top of the mountain. You should wear comfortable clothes, a light jacket and a pair of comfortable shoes. A camera is a must-have on this hike; you will want to record the beautiful scenery on your way. Tickets are VND70,000 per adult and VND20,000 per child.
Cuisine: Truong Sinh Restaurant (No. 8 Thach Son Street), Hai Yen Restaurant (No. 8 Thach Son Street) or Kham Pha Viet Restaurant (No. 15 Thach Son Street) offer a delicious “hiker’s menu”.
FANSIPAN PEAK – THE ROOF OF INDOCHINA
At a height of 3,143 metres, Fansipan is the highest mountain in Vietnam, and is considered the roof of Indochina. Its peak is a pop-ular destination for many hikers. Located nine kilometres to the southwest of Sapa, the mountain is a challenging hike that takes days of walking, and requires assistance from professional tourism companies or a local guide.
Top tips: The Fansipan cable car has shortened the time of the trip to 15 minutes. Round trip ticket price is VND700,000 per adult, VND500,000 per child (1 – 1.3 metres tall), and are free for children under 1 metre.
Cuisine: Hai Cang Restaurant is located at the Fansipan cable car station, serving Asian and Western cuisine with prices ranging from 58,000 – VND198,000. The restaurant is open from 9am to 6pm every day.
O QUY HO PASS – ONE OF THE FOUR MOST FAMOUS PASSES IN VIETNAM
Located on Highway 4D crossing Hoang Lien Son mountain range, O Quy Ho Pass connects the provinces of Lao Cai and Lai Chau. O Quy Ho is the longest mountain pass in Vietnam, and one of the most dangerous yet majestic mountain-passes in the Northern mountainous region.
Top tips: You can rent a motorbike to conquer this famous pass. Stop at the top of the mountain to admire the spectacular view of Sapa and take some photos.
Cuisine: At the top of the mountain, visitors can enjoy many barbeque eateries run by locals. Try grilled beef, grilled eggs or bamboo sticky rice.
TRAM TON PASS – THE ROAD TO HEAVEN
Located 18 kilometres to the north of Sapa, Tram Ton Pass is nestled inside the majestic Hoang Lien Son mountain range. This winding pass winds up among rolling hills, decorated with fluctuating rays of sunlight. Heaven’s Gate is located at the top of the pass.
Top tips: Standing at Heaven’s Gate, you can enjoy an incredible unobstructed view of the valley below filled with green rice terraces and winding roads and see the spectacular Silver Falls from afar.
Cuisine: Tram Ton Restaurant (Highway 4D, San Sa Ho).
TA PHIN VILLAGE – LEARN ABOUT TRADITIONAL BROCADE CRAFT
Ta Phin Village is home to the Red Dao and H’Mong ethnic groups. The road to Ta Phin Village winds up the hillside, past lush green rice terrace fields. The village is famous for its meticulous and colourful brocade designs and products.
Top tips: Ta Phin Village is located 12 kilometres away from Sapa. From the town centre, follow Highway 4D for five kilometres, turn left at the toll station and drive for another seven kilometres to reach Ta Phin Village. Red Dao women gather here every day, so it’s not difficult to recognise them. Walk around to learn about brocade craft, buy some souvenirs, or experience a traditional Red Dao herbal bath with many health benefits. Ticket price is VND30,000 per visitor.
Must see: Ta Phin Cave located at the end of the village.
Cuisine: You can eat at one of the many homestay inns including May Kieu’s Homestay, Sapa Homestay, Stone Garden Homestay, and Chao Quay Ta Homestay.
HO VILLAGE – A COMMUNITY ATTRACTION
Located nearly 30 kilometres to the southwest of Sapa, Ho Village stands out with its magnificent natural scenery, mythical waterfalls and rapids, as well as and unique cultural heritage. It is home to five ethnic groups: Tay (make up the heritages of the population), H’Mong, Dao, Giay and Nung.
Top tips: There are many ways to reach Ho Village: rent a motorbike, a motor taxi or a jeep. Ticket price is VND15,000 per person.
Must see: Ban Den Commune is located in the centre of Ho Village, where the two streams of Muong Hoa and La Ve meet.
Cuisine: You can ask the locals to cook for you and enjoy a meal with them.
SAPA MUSEUM – LEARN ABOUT DIFFERENT ETHNIC CULTURES IN SAPA
Sapa museum exhibits about 200 artifacts, statues, publications and documentaries about ethnic groups in Sapa, including H’Mong, Tay, Giay, Xa Pho, Ha Nhi and Red Dao. Learn about the 100-year history of Sapa as well as the work, religious traditions, culture, and clothing of different ethnic groups.
Top tips: The museum is located at No. 2 Fansipan Road, and is open every day from 7:30 – 11:30a.m. and 1:30 – 5p.m.
Cuisine: Little Sapa Restaurant (No. 14 Cau May Alley), Viet Emotion Sapa Coffee and Restaurant (No. 27 Cau May Alley), Anh Dao Restaurant (No. 34 Cau May Alley).