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From Sapa to Bac Ha

The train for Lao Cai starts at 10.00 p.m. and takes all the night to make 340 km. The rails follow the Red river and go up and down through beautiful valleys. The train go very slowly, maybe too slowly. This is the region of "montagnards", the name comes from the French domination but it is still in use for more than 50 ethnic groups living on the North Mountains close to China and Laos. Vietnamese people don't like montagnards for their old alliance with French and then Americans, that's why they are called "moi" which means savage. From Lao Cai we went to Sapa. This is the area where you can find the best markets all over Vietnam. The scene is really great, green mountains, and flowered among famous for its beautiful clothes. Women have clothes with vivid colors and silver rings and bracelets. Men and Women are very small. They are very hospitable and they will invite you to see their house maybe it's an excuse to sell you something but it's ok.

The train for Lao Cai starts at 10.00 p.m. and takes all the night to make 340 km. The rails follow the Red river and go up and down through beautiful valleys. The train go very slowly, maybe too slowly. This is the region of “montagnards”, the name comes from the French domination but it is still in use for more than 50 ethnic groups living on the North Mountains close to China and Laos. Vietnamese people don’t like montagnards for their old alliance with French and then Americans, that’s why they are called “moi” which means savage. From Lao Cai we went to Sapa. This is the area where you can find the best markets all over Vietnam. The scene is really great, green mountains, and flowered among famous for its beautiful clothes. Women have clothes with vivid colors and silver rings and bracelets. Men and Women are very small. They are very hospitable and they will invite you to see their house maybe it’s an excuse to sell you something but it’s ok.

In Sapa we rent a motorbike to reach Bac Ha. It’s hard but also one of the best experience in Vietnam. The pictures show our trip from Sapa to Bac Ha but you have to make the trip to feel and live wonderful emotions. The Sunday market in Bac Ha is the most important of the area. Bac Ha has one of the most interesting ethnic markets in Vietnam and possibly everywhere in South East Asia. It is the occasion for the various local ethnical groups to gather in huge crowds to exchange the last news, gossip, shop, and eat a copious lunch of course pho bo a typical Vietnamese soup. There is a sea of color, everyone seemed excited. Discussion for a good price is a habit…I “fought” a lot…Absolutely when in Vietnam don’t miss this region.

The best time to visit is spring. The weather in winter can be cold and foggy in Sapa, with temperature occasionally below freezing. Summers can be very rainy. Sapa is quieter and cheaper during the week, as during the weekend (Friday and Saturday night) a lot of tourists are coming from Hanoi to visit the Saturday market. The markets in Bac Ha have are less visited by tourists and more colorful.

The most convenient (and possibly cheap) way to visit Sapa is to book a tour in Hanoi for lazy guys. If you prefer to travel independently like me, this is quite easy. Lao Cai is 330 km from Hanoi. The trip on a bus takes 13 hours. There is a train which runs three times a day between Hanoi and Lao Cai in 10 hours, and which is a better solution, especially if you can save time by taking an overnight sleeper. Hard sleepers or Soft sleepers as you prefer.
From Lao Cai, it is 38 km to Sapa. The trip can be done on a public bus (if you are able to take it because they prefer that travelers take shuttle so they pay more), or on shuttle. From Sapa, it is 93 km to Bac Ha A mini-bus does the trip between Sapa and Bac Ha daily. The trip takes 3 hours and costs. It is possible to visit Bac Ha as a day trip while being based in Sapa, or reciprocally. We did the trip by motorbike a wonderful and broken-back experience. There are lots of hotels in Sapa (average price $10). Bac Ha isn’t as developed as Sapa.

written by -a-l-b-e-r-t-o-

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