Sapa was the much needed mountain town we were looking for after 1.5 weeks in the bustling cities of Vietnam. We took the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and then a van from the train station to Sapa City.
The drive up the mountain was nothing short of terrifying. The van company had 18+ people in a van that is supposed to seat 15. To say it was comfortable would be a stretch. But, the views out of the window were worth it. As the climate changed drastically, so did the scenery. From a city to a forrest, rice terraces, waterfalls, and homes built on cliffs, there was something different any way you turned.
We didn’t plan to do or see anything specific in Sapa but ended up doing and seeing a lot. Our Sapa adventure started with motorbike rentals for the entire day. It was cold, foggy, and raining for the entire day but we didn’t let that stop us. My mom rode passenger behind me and my Auntie Barb drove her own bike. When my mom was squeezing me and begging me to slow down (even when the brakes couldn’t slow us down), you could see Auntie Barb flying past us and having the time of her life.
When we originally started our day on the bikes, we didn’t have a route or a plan in mind. We just drove wherever we wanted to. We saw Cat-Cat Village and made our way further down the mountainside until we came up to a gate and a ticket stand. One thing we learned in Vietnam is that you need to pay for just about EVERYTHING. Think of a toll road only for tourists to pay. We sat and talked about IF we should pay and continue on or turn around and head back up. Luckily we met a girl at the ticket stand who was doing a homestay with a local village and she showed us pictures of what we would see beyond the ticket gate. We were sold!
We got back on our bikes and continued our journey and the views were worth it!
Aside from almost losing my mom and our bike to the waterfall that slid the tires out from under us, and catching my bike before it went straight into the river, and the times I questioned if our tires popped from the rocky road, I highly recommend renting motorbikes and doing the drive yourself. I also recommend this ONLY if you feel very comfortable on a motorbike. Many people who did the tours and stopped at the same places as we did, would say, “wow! You guys are brave!” And they were right.
The next day, we decided to rent the motorbikes again and head towards Silver Falls. This is a very famous waterfall in Northern Vietnam and takes about 30-45 minutes from Sapa City Center. As it was still raining, we were dressed in the best fashion accessory you can find in this region of the country… a poncho. These are life savors!
Silver Falls is a little hike, but worth it. The waterfall is huge. The power of the water and the height of the mountain it falls from is incredible. There’s a bridge you cross from one side of the waterfall to the other that has holes and cracks for you to see the water flowing below you. Don’t look down if you’re scared of heights!
After two days riding around Sapa in the pouring rain (sometimes drizzling rain) and fog, it was time to relax in a warm room. There are plenty massage spas and cozy restaurants that overlook the rice terraces and the famous Mount Fanispan. On our last day we enjoyed coffee and tea overlooking the mountain side while planning our route to the next destination.
Collectively, we agreed Sapa was one of our favorite stops in Vietnam. The people were very sweet, you’re able to see village culture right in front of you, and the weather was a nice break from sticky humidity. If we were to do Vietnam again, or even see China, we would come back to Sapa. Maybe we’d even do a home stay with a local village, as well!