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Sa Pa in brief

 

Landmarks

Sa Pa Town is located in Lao Cai Province, north-west Vietnam and away 350 km north-west of Hanoi, close to the border with China. Sa Pa is very famous both for its fine, poetic, rugged scenery and for its rich cultural diversity. French used to consider Sa Pa as Summer Capital of Northern Vietnam in the early decades of the 20th century. Its naturally gifted beauty keep attracting more and more people to spend their vacation there since then. Particularly, the place is the foremost choice for honeymoon couples!

 

 

Sa Pa Town is a famous holiday resort, It lies at about 1600 meters of altitude. The rainy season in summer (May—August), and foggy and cold in winter.

Sa Pa has  prideful natural beauty spots such as Ham Rong Mountain, Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest and Ta Phin Cave, Cat Cat Village, Ta Van Village, Sin Chai Village, Bac Ha Market ….and Hoang Lien Son mountain range with the highest mountain of Vietnam and Indochina - Fansipan with a height of 3143m.

Sa Pa is home to various families of flowers of romantic  and  unique captivating colors. When the Lunar New Year Festival to come, the whole township of Sa Pa is filled with the pink color of peach blossom brought from the vast forests of peach just outside the town. Sa Pa is regarded as the kingdom of orchids as well.

Foreign tourists are actually fond of scarce and precious specialties of Sa Pa such as forest's product, handicrafts, delicacies (smoked meat, "Thang  Co", "Cai Meo", San Lung wine, corn wine, etc.), typical of ethnic minority people. 

Local markets are the Sa Pa's typically cultural element, which are always crowded and joyful, attractive to  hundreds of visitors. This is the common place for minority groups to gather and exchange goods. Market sessions are also a good chance for local people to promenade. No foreign visitors could help joining such a market session, a typical cultural element of Sa Pa. Tourists coming to Sa Pa at weekends have the great chance to learn about local ethnic people's courtship and martial life, through the Sa Pa love market and wife kidnapping ceremony of the H'Mong  ethnic group. The ceremony will begin on April 29th.

 

Climate

Sa Pa also experiences a marked wet season from May to September, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in July and August. It rains very often during the month of August, especially in the mornings. The weather is also notorious for changing frequently and quickly. It is said that only in Sa Pa, one can experience many different seasons within only one day.

In winter (about 4 months  from November to February), the weather in Sa Pa is invariably cold, wet and foggy (temperatures can drop to freezing and there was snow in 2011). Travelers have rolled into town on a glorious clear day and proceed to spend a week trapped in impenetrable fog. If you chose to visit in winter, bring along warm clothes or prepare to be cold and miserable, as many hotels do not have efficient heating in their rooms. During that time,  more upmarket hotels that do have heating fill up quickly, so make advance reservations .

 

Best time travel to visit

Each season in Sa Pa has its own special qualities and surprises. In the summer, The best time to visit is from April to September, is a popular escape destination for domestic travelers, which may hamper the authentic and original experience of the town. This high season often falls between June and August. March-May and September- November are the two recommended periods to visit Sa Pa for foreign travelers if you want a more laid-back natural and rejuvenating holiday.

The dry season is from January to June the best time to visit for foreign travelers. Temperatures in January and February are regularly around 0ºC. The rainy season falls in June and August. September marks the end of the rainy season which is a good time to visit then by mid - December temperatures start to fall significantly making this September to mid-December period the best time to be there.

 

Transport

Sa Pa is proximity to the border region makes it a possible first or last stop for travelers crossing between Vietnam and China.

The gateway to Sa Pa is Lao Cai, 38km away on the Chinese border. Buses to points west such as Lai Chau and Dien Bien Phu  pass through a few times a day from Lao Cai, the main transport hub. Sa Pa’s bus station (for minibuses in this case) is in the north of town.

Minibuses make the trip from Lao Cai regularly between 5am and 5pm ( about 1 hours 30 minutes). In Sa Pa, minibuses wait in front of the church but do not run to any particular schedule. However, in Lao Cai minibuses often wait for the train that arrives from Hanoi Capital. If you are arriving from China, you can pick one up at Lao Cai bus station.

The advertised rate of hotel minibus services to Bac Ha (110km) for the Sunday market is around US$10 – US$ 15  per  person; departure from Sa Pa is at 06am and from Bac Ha at 13pm. It is cheaper to go to Bac Ha by public minibus, changing buses in Lao Cai.

For the travelers like to discover , driving a motorbike from Hanoi to Sa Pa is very feasible, but it is a very long trip, so should start early. The total distance between Hanoi and Sa Pa is 380km. The last 38km are straight uphill – unless you are been training for the Olympics, it is hell on a bicycle. Best way to take Train from Hanoi to Lao Cai Station. it is very easy for rent a motorbike in Sa Pa to discover.

The train trip between Lao Cai (gateway station to Sa Pa) and Hanoi has become much more comfortable and convenient. Currently, high  quality  class Train ticket   : Hanoi – Lao Cai – Hanoi (A/C soft sleeper 4 or 6 berths cabin)   is  best  service and quality, can be booked only through  Travel agencies in Hanoi , but in Hanoi with normal class ( normal service ) you can book at Hanoi station ( called Hang Co station).

Ticket prices  often rise by about 10% to 30%  at weekends and rush season of travel. There are also several companies operating special private carriages with comfortable sleepers and high quality class , including : ET Pumpkin,  Orient  Express , Livitrans, Green Train …and the more luxurious and expensive Victoria Express.

The day train leaves Lao Cai at 10.20am, while two night trains depart 8.35pm and 9.15pm, with the later express service including the private carriages. The journey takes about 10 hours. From Hanoi the all-stations day train departs at 6.15am and the night trains depart at 9.20pm and 10pm respectively.

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