9. Shopping at Sapa Square
10. Beware, the dye on the crafts run
You might notice how many older Hmong women have blue-stained hands. It’s from the indigo dye they use in their fabric work. Although the Hmong make beautifully-colored crafts; the dye in them is not quite set and must be cured before wearing or using.
Tip: If you buy these products, you must:
1) Keep them separate from your clothes and
2) Set the dye before you wear/use any of them (usually several washes with vinegar and salt should help, but it will take time for the dye to seal itself in the fabric)
Why? The moment it gets wet, the ink will stain whatever it touches. Take warning from my travel friend, David (below), a Parisian with a great sense of humor. He wore one of the Hmong belts as a bandana on our trek and proved that indigo dye theory correct.
11. Cat Cat Village trek
The trek to Cat Cat Village is one that requires a permit from the Tourist Information Center before entering the checkin station. It’s a leisurely stroll (about 20-30 minutes) down a sloping hill and follows a cobblestone path through the village and down to a waterfall. If you’re so inclined, you can take a short trek from the base winding back up to the top. The village is picturesque but at instant glance is constructed largely for tourists. The Hmong homes residing there are set up as souvenir shops that tourists persue.
12. Massages are cheap
Thailand isn’t the only country to hold copyright on cheap massages. You can find them in Vietnam too and Sapa has a few salon and massage parlors for you to try. Foot and body massages can be gotten for around $6 /hour and the Vietnamese are experts at making your feet and body feel like it has wings! It’s easy to get addicted.
13. P.Cau May roadis the main drag
As main road that runs through the heart of town, P Cau May houses international restaurants, cafes, clothes, massage and souvenir shops.
14. Sapa Radio Tower: the best view in town
It’s said to be the easiest hike in Sapa. Getting to the Sapa Radio Tower has a 360 degree view, which is said to be priceless.
15. Bring or buy poncho
It rains and around winter time (November to February) it can get very cold. If you don’t have one, you can always buy them at a local trekking shop in Sapa.
16. Bring trekking shoes or rent rubber boots
During winter time, it can rain a lot and the paths are muddy. If you’re trekking, you’ll want good shoes. Some paths can be narrow and with the mud, very slippery. Good trekking shoots will give you traction.
17. Trekking clothes shops, no problem!
There’s a good handful of shops which sell trekking clothes from shoes to ponchos, backpacks and apparel. Some will be knock-off shops selling counterfeit brands such as NorthFace.
18. Variety of Food
Sapa has a good selection of international restaurants, cafes and street food to choose from. P Cau May road houses many international food joints, while the street perpendicular and aligning with Sapa Square strings a walkway of Vietnamese street food, where you can sit in the open on plastic chairs on the sidewalk to eat.
The food in Sapa bats eye-to-eye with Hanoi. So far, it’s the best food I’ve had my entire trip! The food was fresh, made with care and well-flavored. Below is my lunch at a cafe. Fresh tomato soup made from scratch. Delicious!