Area : 24.2 sq. km
Population: 8,975 (2012)
Sapa is a famous tourist attraction in Lao Cai province, north west Vietnam, about 376 km from Hanoi. It is favoured with spectacular natural landscapes, immense mountain ranges, hilly topography, greeny forests and rich culture with the appearance of various ethnic minorities. All help to make up Sapa a luring and unique resort.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
At the height of about 1600 meters above sea level, Sapa has temperate and semi tropical climate with annual average temperature at 15 degrees Celsius. Once coming here, you will be stunned with various weather of a day: cool in the morning, sunny and warm at noon, cloudy and foggy in the afternoon and chilly cold in the evening. Sapa is among the few places which snows in winter in Vietnam. The heaviest snow was on 13 February in 1968, when it reached 20 cm thick.
The good time to visit Sapa is in late spring and autumn, between March and May, when it clears and the whole town is covered with blossoming plum, peach and apricot flowers drawing a picturesque and paramount romantic scenery for Sapa. In September, once can be completely attracted by endless rice terraced fields on the hills embraced the little town.
The rainy season starts from May until August, and from December until March, it is very cold and wet.
Sapa is home for six different ethnic groups living together: Kinh, Hmong, Red Dzao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho. Coming to Sapa in the beginning months of the Vietnamese Lunar Year (normally in January or early February), visitors will have chance to attend some of the most gripping festivals in the area.
Roong Pooc of the Giay
Taken place on the Dragon day of Lunar January in the ravishing Ta Van village, Roong Pooc festival is the special occasion when the Giay celebrate new year and pray for a coming abundant harvest, favorable weather and peaceful life. The Roong Pooc festival attracts visitors with its special rituals and ebullient traditional performances.
The Dancing Tet of the Dzao
The most important festival of the year is organized on the first or second of the Lunar New Year in Ta Van village, with very careful and lots of preparation. The festival shows the gratitude of the Dzao people to their ancestors, besides a pray for good luck and happiness in new year. There are 14 typical traditional dances performed by seriously selected village boys and unique etiquettes by the local priest.
The Sweeping Festival of the Xa Pho
This special event is organized on every Horse day, Goat day or Human day of Lunar February with the meaning of happy and peaceful life, healthy cattle and good harvest. On this day, the villagers bring various offerings such as pigs, chickens, goats, dogs, or rice, … to dedicate to the ghosts. A priest will host the festival and humble the praying songs while people around dancing and singing with their painted faces. Afterward, all the offerings must be finished without bringing into the village.
The Gau Tao Festival of the Hmong
Being one of the most important spiritual activities of the Hmong, the Gau Tao festival is organized at the beginning of the Lunar New Year. In the festival, a priest will be invited to the local’s house to pray for their good health, good luck or children.
The Opening Harvest Festival of the Tay and Dzao
One of the biggest and most fascinating fests in Sapa, the Opening Harvest Festival of the Tay and Dzao people in Ban Ho village, Sapa takes place in the morning of the eighth day in Lunar New Year. The festival starts with solemn rites of water and soil processions then lures its audience with riveting traditional dances and singing performances. The most special and exciting dance is the “Xoe” of the Tay and Dzao, when the charming Tay girls show their professional and skillful performance then invite every audience to join them. The dance now becomes a colorful co-performance with huge circle of amateur dancers. Visitors then will attend various interesting conventional games with locals.
SEE & DO
Located in San Sa Ho commune, 4 km south west of Sapa and is on the way to “the rooftop of Indochina Fansipan”. This is a newly discovered tourist attraction with the height of about 100m, starting from the Fansipan peak and flowing into the Gold Stream beneath. The flow at the shape of a pyramid is becoming a romantic appointment for young couples to explore.
Ham Rong mountain or “Flower mountain”
Located is at the centre of Sapa town, just opposite the Stone Church. The park is highlighted with a winding stone walkway up to the top of Ham Rong mountain. Along the road, visitors are glamoured with four season flowers in various types as well as intriguing stone statue gardens. Standing on the Cloud Yard at the height of 1800m above the sea level, one can feel the most panoramic vista of Sapa town and its surrounded valleys.
The highest peak of Indochina at 3143m, be always a challenge for any adventure lover. To climb the mountain, you will need at least 3 days and of course, with the help of local porters and guides. On the way to conquer the mountain, one will be engrossed by great diversity of vegetation and animals on the Hoang Lien Son mountain range.
Sapa ethnic markets
One of the most interesting activities when visiting Sapa is to attend colorful ethnic markets in the remote districts from Sapa. This is chance not only for people to buy and sell their products but also for young boys and girls to make up and find their Mr/Ms Right.
EAT & DRINK
Sapa’s specialties are another reason attracting more and more tourists travelling to this town. The cool weather of the region makes barbecued meat and fish with mushroom and vegetables the most preferred street foods in Sapa.
More surprisingly, Western restaurants, from Italian to French ones, can also be found around the center of Sapa, at a very reasonable price.
Clamped-under-the-armpit pig (Lợn cắp nách)
The name arises from the fact that pigs about 4 to 5 kg in weight are carried under the arm for sales at market.
Due to growing unbridled under severely cold weather all year round, pig’s meat here is much lean, solid and sweet, which makes the dish distinctive from other places.
Not long ago, this type of pork was almost wiped out because it couldn’t be sold and no one wanted to feed it anymore. All of a sudden, piglets are now promoted and become a specialty of Sapa which is admired by many visitors.
Seven color steamed glutinous rice
This dish is splendid with seven colors without using any artificial coloring and the pride of Nung Din ethnic women because it expresses their ingenuity and skill.
The cooking process is quite similar to that of other steamed sticky rice; however, the dying process takes a lot of time and effort. The colors all originate from leaves of different forest trees that are ground or boiled to exact the colors. What is more, the forest tree leaves are often used as restorative medicines by the locals; therefore, please do not hesitate to try this delicious and healthy dish!
A wide range of sub-tropical vegetables such as white cauliflower, red beet, or chayote are planted here. Apart from the famous chayote vegetable, visitors are also impressed by a kind of vegetable which has a special bitterness. That is bitter cabbage (people commonly call it Meo cabbage) – a kind of pure vegetable in Sapa.
Salmon in Sapa
Such fish which live only in cold regions like America or Europe have been imported but only successfully adopted in Sapa. With a cool climate all year round and a cold winter even with snow covers, Sapa salmon is blessed to have flesh meat, firm muscles and no grease which is suitable for processing many different dishes. The most prominent are salmon hot pots, salmon salads and grilled salmon …
Sapa brook fish are usually not big, just equal to an adult finger, or a knife handle as the biggest. The most special secret is that these brook fish has no fishy flavor. Once catched, fish are often grilled on coal immediately at the stream in order to store or bring to restaurants in town for sale. After being grilled, fish’s head, tail and fins are very crisp while the fish’s round body still maintains the fiber muscles-unique characteristics only for such mountainous species.
Sapa is the place where black mushrooms hidden in the forests. Dried mushroom can be found all 4 seasons. It swells in water but it retains its original flavour.
The mushroom can be mixed with meat, dried cuttlefish and some spices. You can eat it with many kinds of vegetables here