Sapa, Vietnam is one of the most underrated yet attractive destinations in Vietnam. With beautiful green terraced rice fields and beautiful mountains with tiny villages dotted along the hillsides, the scenery of Sapa puts any postcard to shame.
Most travelers are discouraged with how remote Sapa is from the main city points such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Min and end up missing out on a life changing experience. Understandably so, as most travelers want to hit the popular destinations where they can get the most out of their trip by visiting as many spots as possible. As a traveler myself, I get it, but trust me when I say, Sapa is a must see destination that will leave a lasting impact.
What sets Sapa apart aside from the beauty of its scenery tucked away in the north west of Vietnam close to the border of China, is the perspective you gain from the experience. It not only sheds light on the reality of poverty in developing countries but you learn the real life conditions those who live there face from the private guide who leads the trek. Despite their lack of electricity, heat, running water, store bought food and dependency on natural materials to survive, the tour guides are the most vivacious and optimistic people you’ll ever meet.
The homes are made of bamboo, wood and other natural materials that the mountains provide them with. Since they don’t use currency and instead barter for what they need with the goods they have, trekkers should remain aware of children approaching them begging for you to purchase their homemade goods. It’s uncommon for children to graduate from high school and families would prefer their children not attend school altogether so they can help out the family.
Your private guide will encourage you to not look at or purchase from the children. If you look at them, they will continue following you begging you to purchase from them until you break down and do so and this encourages them to not attend school as they can get money from tourists to support their family over getting an education. It can be difficult as they’re dressed in tattered clothing and they’ve perfected the type of look on their face that instantly wants you to hand over everything you’re wearing. It’s important to remember, by giving in, you’re encouraging them to not continue their education.
It was interesting to learn that police are not active in Sapa and there are no nearby doctors or hospitals. To get to the nearest hospital requires an 8km trek. Since the villages are so remote, they don’t receive mail. In America, old traditions had women stay home and care for the house while men were the breadwinners. In Sapa, it’s the opposite, women are the workers of the family while the men stay at home.
Despite everything they lack, everyone was so happy and lively and beyond grateful for life. To date, this trip remains the most impactful trips I’ve ever taken and I hope it gives you a new appreciation for your life and opportunities.