Sapa Vietnam – Must Visit Places (continue)
Ta Phin Village
Ta Phin Village is 12km north-east of Sapa town. Here is another village where you can discover about the unique culture and custom of high-land minorities. There are two ethnics reside in Ta Phin, the Red Dao, who make up the majority, and the Black H’mong. The locals here are very friendly and will invite you visit their home.
Surrounded by mountains and spectacular rice terraces, Ta Phin is famous for trekking tours. You can organize the trip with any travel agency in Sapa or even with the hotel’s reception. You can either choose “one day” or “home stay” package (I never tried “home stay”, but it seems to be quite interesting).
Trekking will allow you to meet the locals, see their daily activities and traditional housing, visit caves and etc. The Red Dao is also known for their special medicine bath, which comprised of 10 or more herb & plants. For up to VND 200,000 you can have a full bath and massage. Tip: Like in Cat Cat village, people here will try to sell you handicraft and other souvenirs. It can become annoying as they will just tag along until they can sell something. The best way is to firmly say “No” from the start. Do not give in to them because once you bought something a bunch of seller will hurry along.
Ancient Rock Field
Situated in Muong Hoa Valley, this 8km2 area is a collection of 200 rocks in different shape, engraved with ancient images. This World Cultural Heritage Site was first discovered in 1925 by a French researcher.
You can see the drawings of humans, houses, and various symbols that are believed to be primitive writing. Until now, archeologist haven’t been able to decipher their meaning
Among these impressive images, there are two stones that are called da chong(husband) and da vo (wife). It’s told that da chong and da vo is a story of eternal love between a couple. They are still beside each other even though they were turned to stone.
There’s a sad fact that many people write their names or whatever they think are cool on these ancient rocks despite the local authority’s effort to preserve this heritage site.
Ancient Rock Field is part of a popular trekking route which will bring you pass the following places:
- Lao Chai Village
- Ta Van
- Rattan Bridge (also called Cloud Bridge because you will feel that you are walking on cloud when the bridge is covered with fog)
- Topas Ecolodge (the scenery here is stunning, but there’s a construction going on there when I write this guide)
- Ho Village
This trekking route is considerably further than Ta Phin.
Other places that you might want to visit during your trip to Sapa include Sapa Market and Cluster of Bac Ha relics (part of China). Sapa market is held every Saturday night. That’s where youngster seek their partner by playing pan-pipes or singing love songs.
Conquer Fansipan Mountain
This is the hardest destination to reach at Sapa. Waiting for you at the top is a metal block with the carving Fansipan, the spectacular panorama view, and of course the pride of conquering the roof of Indochina. At altitude of 3143m, the task is only for the strong and fit.
There are several routes to reach the summit of Fansipan. The shortest and also easiest one is 16km from the gate of Hoang Lien National Park. This is probably the most popular tour offered by travel agents. The second route starts from Cat Cat Village, 37km from the top. This route offers the best view and scenery. There’s another route, which is also the hardest one starts from Sin Chai Village, I don’t recommend you to take this route. Most travel agents do not offer tour through this route.
*Note: There’s a VND 250000 (~ $12) fee (plus tax), which should be covered within your package. Check with your travel agent about this beforehand.
Depending on the tour package you choose, it will take 2 days or 3 days to finish the trip. There will be locals (H’mong porters) guiding you throughout the trips. They will also prepare meals, tents, as well as carry your bags.
There are three stops in total. You will reach stop 1 in no time and enjoy the walk through the rain forest and wild mountain streams. The way to stop 2 is a lot harder. The wind will be blowing stronger and the air getting thinner as we reach 2200 meter. Most likely you will take a long break when reached stop 2 before continuing.
The way from Stop 2 to Stop 3 is really challenging. Fog is everywhere making your clothes wetter and heavier while wind is blowing ever stronger. You will be spending the night at 2900 meter above sea level in loosely built tents. It’s very cold. A small fire will be started to keep everyone warm.
We often sit around the fire and tell all sorts of story or even sing songs. After a long day, you will be sleeping under the star with great sense of achievement (hopefully).
The next day will start early and you will be challenged. To reach the summit, you need to weave through bamboo forests with slopes after slopes. Sometimes, the porters need to use rope harnesses for your safety.
The summit of Fansipan opens up an amazing view through layers of cloud in all direction (depending on weather though). Remember to take some picture to prove that you have conquered the roof of Indochina (send me one please :)).
If you have the 2 days 1 night package, then you will spend a short time on the top then proceed down. If you take the 3 days 2 night package you will be having lunch first before going down and spend another night in the thick forest. Note: I must say that Fansipan tour is not for everyone, especially if you have heart or respiratory problems. This is certainly not for children and elder. Prepare yourself well if you want take on the challenge. Ask everything you can before choosing a travel agent.