June 24, 2014

Trekking with Locals in Sapa, Vietnam

By Rob
I sit here totally exhausted but with a huge smile. Today I went trekking in Sapa, Vietnam with a local guide. It was a rare clear day and couldn’t of possibly had a better opportunity to venture into a world somewhat unfamiliar to myself. It was one of those cool experiences you won’t forget.

My buddies left today, alarm went at 7am, they shook my hand while I was in bed. Then like any true gentleman, I got out of bed and enjoyed coffee with them before they left, only proper thing to do. Drank a few more and did some web work before rolling out on yet another “solo adventure”.

Local village ladies in Sapa Vietnam
Hit up the local market, eat some pho with some village people and begin wandering while wondering what to do with myself. I decided “Phuket, I’m going to go visit that village”. About 20 steps later, I ask these local ladies what way it is, suddenly they are all following me and offering to come with me. I give this one lady a pinky swear that I’ll go with her and buy something, I had a cool $5us burning a hole in my pocket anyways. Slowly but surely the other 6 women taper off until it’s just “T” and myself.

Ladies relaxing in sapa vietnam
We cruise down the road and off the beaten trail, I keep thinking “ok, she must live somewhere near here, soon”. .. How mistaken I was, turns out she lives 12KM of harsh terrain away. There are a few villages in the big valley near Sapa. One is 7km, one is 10km and one is 12km. She lives on the outskirts of the 12km one, up the steepest and most erosion ridden paths one could imagine. I carried her basket most of the way, these ladies are TOUGH. T is 50 years old and walks 12km up hill to get to Sapa and then 12km back 2-3 times a week. Sometimes she takes a taxi but ONLY if it was a good day in sales and she is insanely tired.

Trekking in Sapa Vietnam with a local guide
We walk, we walk, we walk. I can’t describe the way there without doing it an injustice. It was truly a spectacular sight and sensational on the senses. We went through all the tourist hot spots and just kept going. By the end I was SERIOUSLY dragging my feet and sweating like a gorilla in full business attire on an local bus in Bali sans a/c during dry season. It is warm here in the sun and I had on my warmest clothes because I didn’t really pay attention to the weather when I left for breakfast.

Small village in Sapa Vietnam
We arrive and she actually has a pretty sick pad. I mean it’s basic but it’s quite big and she has tones of pigs, chickens and a dog. What is crazy is that 15-20 people live there, wow. She gave me the full tour and then I noticed some plants. Next thing you know I’m sitting on her front stoop high in the mountains near Sapa with massive bags at my feet. I sat there for what felt like an hour or so until my lungs officially refused to stop taking in air.

After that we eat a nice meal with her family and drank a bunch of rice wine. At this point she asks if I want to buy anything, I hand her 100,000vdn and say “I don’t need anything, this is for the experience”.

Inside villager house Sapa Vietnam
What a totally random, incredibly awesome and unique experience I had to day. This is what I love most and seriously don’t bother with a guided tour when you get to Sapa. Just meet a nice lady and “go from there”, they will all offer to take you home and many sleep the night. I could have but I was like “ok, this was cool but I already have a room.” I’m glad I did it but I’m also glad to hopefully never have to take that trek again, it’s tough.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Sapa Trekking & Homestay tour.At an elevation of 1,600 meters, Sapa is a delightful former French hill station situated in the mountainous region of Vietnam's northwest, close to the Chinese border. The region is home to many ethnic minority groups, each wearing traditional and colorful attire. This trip includes a trek through the hills and valleys of the Sapa region, discovering several different minorities along the way. You will experience overnight accommodation in the hospitable villages of Giay and Tay ethnic minorities. The apparent hardships are worth it though as we walk through some of the most spectacular scenery that Vietnam has to offer and experience unique villages culture.
Highlights: 

  • Awesome scenery
  • Rice terraces
  • Colorful minority groups 
  • Homestays in minority villages

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