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Located 38km from Lao Cai City, Sapa is a mountainous district of Lao Cai Province. Sapa District is very well-known with Sapa Townlet, a beautiful and romantic resort.
At the height of 1,600m above sea level, the average temperature of the area is 15-18°C. It is cool in summer and cold in winter.
Visitor to Sapa in summer can feel the climate of four seasons in one day. In the morning and afternoon, it is cool like the weather of spring and autumn. At noon, it is as sunny and cloudless as the weather of summer. And it is cold in the evening. With no advance warning of a thunderstorm short and heavy rains may come at noon on any summer day. Subsequently, a rainbow appears, transforming Sapa into a magic land, which for years has been a constant source of poetic inspiration, lights up the whole region.
The best time to witness the scenic beauty of Sapa is in April and May. Before that period, the weather might be cold and foggy; after that period is the rainy season. In April and May, Sapa is blooming with flowers and green pastures. The clouds that settle in the valley in early morning quickly disappear into thin air.
Sapa has many natural sites such as Ham Rong Mountain, Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest and Ta Phin Cave.Sapa is also the starting point for many climbers and scientists who want to reach the top of Fansipan Mountain, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143m. Hoang Lien Mountain Range is also called the Alps of the North Sea area since Fansipan Mountain is not only the highest peak in Vietnam, but also in the Indochina Peninsula. The pyramid-shaped mountain is covered with clouds all year round and temperatures often drop below zero, especially at high elevations.
Sapa is home to various families of flowers of captivating colours, which can be found nowhere else in the country. When Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival, comes, the whole township of Sapa is filled with the pink colour of peach blossom brought from the vast forests of peach just outside the town. Sapa is regarded as the kingdom of orchids. Here, orchid lovers are even amazed by the choice, when trekking in the forest filled with several hundred kinds of orchids of brilliant colours and fantastic shapes, such as Orchid Princess, Orchid of My Fair Lady's Shoe. Some orchids are named after lovely singing birds such as the canary, salangane's nest, and more.
In addition, Bac Ha Market hosts the biggest fair near the mountainous highlands. It is a typical weekly activity for the H’Mong People and other minority groups living in the locality. In Cat Cat Village the H’Mong people are excellent in gold and silver jewelry. Markets are crowded and merry, and are especially attractive to visitors. Minority groups come here to exchange and trade goods and products. Market sessions, especially Love Market, are also a chance for locals to promenade and young men and women in colorful costumes to meet, date or seek sweethearts.
Fansipan Mountain is located 9km south-west of Sapa Townlet in the Hoang Lien Mountain Range. Fansipan is branded "the Roof of Indochina" at the height of 3,143m; Fansipan is to be approved as one of the very few eco-tourist spots of Vietnam, with about 2,024 floral varieties and 327 faunal species. The topography of Fansipan is varied. Muong Hoa Valley, at the lowest altitude (950-1,000m), is created by a narrow strip of land at the base on the east side of the mountain. Geologists say the Hoang Lien Mountain Range, with Fansipan as its highest peak, did not emerge in the mountainous North West of Vietnam until the neozoic period (circ. 100 million years ago). Fansipan, a rough pronunciation of the local name “Hua Xi Pan” means “the tottery giant rock”.
The summit of Fansipan is accessible all year round, but the best time to make the ascent is from mid-October to mid-November, and again in March. Foreigners like best to book Fansipan tours between October and December, as this period is more often than not free from the heavy rains that obstruct the jaunt. But the Vietnamese prefer their tours to the peak of the mountain from February to April, as it is not so cold then. However, the best time for the trek to the mountain is from the end of February to the start of March, when the flowers all flourish and the climbers may behold the carpets of brilliant blossoms, violets and orchids, rhododendrons and raglans.
HAM RONG MOUNTAIN
Located in center of Sapa Townlet, Sapa District, Lao Cai District; 33km from Lao Cai City, Ham Rong Mountain is an attractive tourist area in the center of Sapa Townlet. Visitors to Ham Rong have chances to climb up the San May (Cloud Yard) to enjoy the panorama of Sapa Townlet, visit the orchid gardens with beautiful and colorful flowers. In addition, Ham Rong Mountain has numerous caves and stones in extraordinary shapes.
Legend has it that in the distance past, all animals lived together in a chaotic environment. One day, Jade Emperor gave an order that every species of animal had to find for them an area to live. Having heard the order, they scrambled for a place to reside. The three brothers of dragon who were living in a large lake hurriedly ran to the east but could not find any place; they then ran to the west. The two older brothers ran fast and came to the destination first. The youngest brother ran slowly and strayed into the crowds of lions, tigers and big cats. Fearing that these animals would attack it, the dragon opened its mouth to defense itself. At that time, the order of Jade Emperor was no longer available, so the three dragons petrified. The two older dragons, which were waiting for their brother, face Lao Cai City, and the youngest one raising its head and opening mouth faces the Hoang Lien Mountain Range. So the mountain is named Ham Rong (Jaw of Dragon).
SAPA ANCIENT ROCK FIELD
Sapa Ancient Rock Field is in Muong Hoa Valley, Hau Thao Commune, Sapa District, Lao Cai Province. This 8sq.km-area of remains consists of large multi-grade rocks engraved with ancient images. Archaeologists have proven that this area has been inhabited since ancient times. These fascinating Viet remains have drawn the attention of scientists and tourists.
Sapa Ancient Rock Field is between the terraced rice paddies of ethnic minority groups. The first exploration research, in 1925, recorded that there were 200 stones of various dimensions concentrated in the area. Hon Bo, which is 15m long and 6m high, is the biggest of theses rocks. The engravings on the surfaces of the stone are either pictographic or decorative. Remarkably, among the engravings are drawings of humans, stilt-houses of the ethnic minorities and symbols believed to be a primitive form of writing. But their meaning has not yet been deciphered. In addition, impressive images include a da chong (the husband stone), da vo (the wife stone), as well as stones that look like tigers and a stela with an incantation written on it by the carver to help his people defeat the tigers.
BAC HA MARKET
Bac Ha Market is in Bac Ha District, Lao Cai Province; about 80km from downtown Sapa. It is a trading centre and meeting place for couples, friends, and relatives every Sunday. Every Sunday, Bac Ha hosts the biggest fair near the mountainous highlands and the Chinese border. It is a trading centre and meeting place for couples, friends, and relatives, and it is a typical weekly activity for the H’Mong and other minority groups living in the locality. Local products for sale or barter are carried on horseback. At the fair, adventurous gastronomes can try "thang co blood porridge", a popular dish of the H’Mong and other local people.
CAT CAT VILLAGE
Cat Cat Village is 2km from Sapa Townlet, Sapa District. This is an age-old village of H'Mong ethnic group remaining unique customs and practices that are lots in other villages. Visitors to Cat Cat have an opportunity to admire a lively and colorful picture. That is the image of young women sitting by looms with colorful pieces of brocade decorated with designs of flowers and birds. When these pieces of brocade are finished, they are dyed and embroidered with beautiful designs. A noteworthy is that H’Mong women use plants and leaves to dye these brocade fabrics. And then they roll a round and smooth section of wood covered with wax on fabrics to polish them, making their colors durable. In addition to the brocade weaving craft, many residents in Cat Cat are good at manipulating gold and silver jewelry. Their products are fairly sophisticated, especially jewelry for women.
Tourists to Cat Cat are most attracted by its unique customs, including the custom of “pulling wife”. A man can ask his friends to lure a girl he likes to his house and keeps her there in three days. During these days, if the girl agrees to become his wife, a wedding will be held. However, the girl can happily go home after three days if she does not like him.
Traditional houses of H’Mong people in Cat Cat have three rooms with three doors and covered with po mu wood roof. In the house there are three columns that stand in round or square stones. The walls are made from sawn timber. The main door is always closed and only opens when people in the house organize important events. Altar, inlaid floor containing food, places for sleeping, kitchen and receiving guests are indispensable parts of the houses. Visitors to Cat Cat Village can discover countless unique features of H’Mong.
TaPhin, a village just outside Sapa in Northern Vietnam, is a unique village where 2 ethnic groups, Black Hmong and Red Dao minorities, live their own way with no cultural mixture. You will experience how different they are in many ways by visiting the local house.
Visitors to TaPhin can see woman of the Red Dao tribes who shave their heads and eyebrows, wear bright red turbans and are known for their embroidery skills.