"…A smile is the only crooked line that sets a lot of things straight…" Sapa, Vietnam, February, 2012
I just got back from Sapa in the north of Vietnam, where I was hoping to take pictures of the beautiful endless rice fields and terraces. I say ‘Hoping’ because from the minute I arrived there till the minute I left, it was quite rainy and foggy. Least to say, I was quite disappointed. In fact, very disappointed that I got back to Hanoi at the same day, getting on the first night train back. However, in between my back and forth train rides I still got a chance to eat the best Pho soup (in an outdoor market among the locals) and walk with two other photographers down the hill towards Cat Cat Village, which is a home to the Black Hmong people. The only way to discover Cat Cat village and its people is by taking the steep stairs down the rice terraces to see the waterfalls. On my way downward I passed through this little girl who was running up the hills. I managed to pull out my camera very quick and take a picture of her before she ran away. When she saw my camera she made this silly smile. No doubt it was such a nice smile that it brightened up my so far depressive day.
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
Homey respite from the blue-handed peddlers
We didn't have weather luck in Sapa. I'm sure it's beautiful, the never-ending green terraces & idyllic villages, but they were all shrouded in fog on my visit. Our "village trek" consisted mostly of slogging through rice paddies & shimmying along the terrace edges. Though I knew it would come at a price, I gladly accepted the blue-stained hands of the local tribeswomen, because the alternative was to find myself lying in the muck. So I (outrageously over)paid a few bucks for some exquisitely embroidered coin purses & made it to our homestay. I loved staying at Ta Van. The owner went to business school in Hanoi, but came back to Sapa to open the homestay because she loves country life. She encouraged me to help her make dinner, which was delicious, & shared stories of her life. I'd stay here again, & hope she does really well. She also has really cute dogs. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sapa is notorious for the Hmong girls who peddle their wares on the streets and in the picturesque central square. After a few interactions with one particularly chatty and funny woman, Thom, in front of our hostel, my friend and I agreed to pay her to take us on a trek to her home, a seven-mile walk from the center of town. After walking through many rice paddies, over multiple bridges, and meeting many people along the way, we arrived at her house, where her four children were excitedly waiting for her.
We had another fabulous one day trek with a guide from Sapa O'Chau. Another good option!
Bring: Lots of water, sturdy shoes, a dry bag for your camera, a willingness to fall in rice paddies!