Sapa: A Hillside Town in Northwestern Vietnam

A knock on the carriage door. The scent of fresh coffee being poured into cups. The gold duvet wrapped around my body. Thick fog hanging over the sleeping hills. The halt of the train pulling into Lao Cai – a train station which lies only 1 kilometer away from the Vietnam-China border. A little van chugging uphill as it follows the curvature of the mountains.

That was my introduction to Sapa and I felt like I was falling into a dream as opposed to waking from one.

There was something magical about travelling all night aboard a train and waking up to an entirely different landscape in such a remote part of the country. How was this still Vietnam? But that’s the thing about this country, it has one of the most diverse terrains; you can be in a bustling city like Hanoi fighting scooters for a little walking space one day, and then you can find yourself wandering the streets of a small hillside village the next.

Sapa won me over with its mountain views and small town feel on the first day, but it was things like pumpkin soup, water buffaloes roaming the streets, gnocchi Bolognese, fresh mountain air, and strawberry tea, that made me want to linger. (Yes, most of my reasons are food, but trust me, this town knows what it’s doing in the cooking department.)

Here are a few photos from my time in Sapa:

Mountain views in Sapa, Vietnam

{View of Sapa and the surrounding mountains}

Hotel with mountain views in Sapa

{The best view in town at the Mountain View Hotel}

A local Hmong woman plays with her daughter in Sapa

{A woman plays with her daughter}

Water buffaloes walking down the street in Sapa, Vietnam

{Three water buffaloes stroll down a busy road putting traffic on hold}

Playing with dogs in the streets of Sapa, Vietnam

{I get friendly with a giant beast of a dog}

Baskets balanced on the back of a motorcycle in Sapa

{A man balances two baskets on the back of his motorcycle}

Spices and medicinal herbs at the market in Vietnam

{Spices and medicinal herbs for sale at the market}

Women in conical hats

{Two women in conical hats carry the recycling using a yoke}

Keeping flies away from the food

{A fan keeps flies away from the food on the table}

Small black puppy

{Another furry fellow I met while out walking}

Sunset in Sapa

{The reason people never leave Sapa}

Have you ever been anywhere like this?


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