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Destination Details

Lao Cai, Vietnam

Set high in Vietnam’s northeast mountains, the hamlet of Sapa offers spectacular views of jagged mountain ridges, terraced rice paddies and green valleys inhabited by people of various ethnic minority groups, most of whom congregate in Sapa’s colorful market. Each group has its own distinctive style of dress. From early childhood, girls learn to grow and weave hemp, to dye cloth with indigo, to sew the family’s clothes, and to decorate items with traditional embroidery motifs. More recently, Sapa has become a tourist mecca. Expect hilltribe vendors to follow you and to be persistent in persuading you to buy their handicrafts. If you buy from one vendor and other vendors see you making purchases, they will attempt to sell you their products too. If you’re not interested, just say ‘no’ and ask your guide to walk you away.

Getting there: The best way to get to Sapa is to take a 10-hour overnight train from Hanoi. Departing at night you wake up refreshed the next morning in Sapa ready to begin your adventure. Visiting a more remote hill tribe market requires a 3 to 4.5 hour drive on bumpy dirt roads through mountains. The trip is for the adventurous; otherwise enjoy your time in nearby hill tribe villages.

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