Discovering Sapa in Vietnam
A Traveller’s Tale. By Glen Lake
As we wound our way higher, up the steep ascending road to the hills of Sapa, the scenery became breathtaking. Many tiers of crops were growing in unison across the valleys, coloured the brightest of greens. Numerous roadside growers were putting their unbelievable orchids on display – getting ready for sale at the Tet Vietnamese New Year festival in a few weeks’ time. We travelled north along interesting roads, taking in as much as we could of the scenery, having lunch in a very nice cafe along the way. This gave us an opportunity to get to know our travel companions a little better.
Once we arrived, Sapa seemed other-worldly. A mist was descending on the village, which was surprisingly busy. The main square was surrounded by hotels, cafes, shops and a beautiful church. Even so, it felt like we were in some kind of lost world – as if we’d discovered Xanadu. People were walking around in their tribal costumes, brightly coloured with embroidered headpieces. As night arrived, the streets filled with families bringing in their beautiful embroidery to sell at street markets.
The beauty of Sapa was its remoteness and uniqueness. Although the temperatures plummeted at night, it did not detract from our time there. We all scurried to the nearby shops and bought more warm clothing and even jackets – minus five degrees Celsius has to be taken seriously! Having the opportunity to travel in Vietnam and Cambodia was special in so many ways. What made the trip so memorable was the wonderful welcoming people we met on our excursions, as well as the exceptional staff who looked after our needs on the Mekong River cruise. But, without doubt, the days we spent in Sapa left an indelible memory that will stay with us always.