A journey to Sapa’s mountains, rice fields and hill tribes

Sapa – a place every Vietnam seeker has to have been to. A place full of mysteries covered in early morning fog, vast mountains casting their shadows over deep valleys and colorful rice fields decorating the hillsides. Homeland to indigenous tribes, by the Vietnamese fondly called ‘minority people’, this place is made for those seeking earnest travel experiences and authentic encounters. 

On early Friday morning we made our way from Hanoi towards the North. Sitting in a modern comfortable bus, picturesque landscapes passed in front of our eyes as the bluish grey mountain range on the horizon came closer and closer. The ride alone was such a nice experience!

Sapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, trip 

After a 4.5 hour ride we eventually reached the bottom of Fansipan – Indochina’s highest mountain. The cable car took us over the mighty valley, revealing stunning views over the land’s countless rice fields, forests and rivers. Particularly in August until October the rice terraces are stunningly beautiful, with the plant revealing all of its colors.So if you decide yo come - those are the best months! Getting to the top we had to master another 15 min of walking stairs but the view we were offered on the summit was worth all the effort – standing on Indochina’s highest mountain, breathing thin air and marveling at the picturesque view: a once in a lifetime adventure that you should not miss out on on your next Vietnam journey!

 Sapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, trip

Back in the valley we got on the bus again and made our way to our accommodation for the night – a home stay in the middle of a small, authentic village, a little more than 10km away from Sapa city. It's an incredibly authentic place, barely any tourists and still manifesting the traditional life - a rare good in today's travel world, but out guides know where to go! We were welcomed by the super friendly family in their house, offering us tee, snacks and fruits I had never even heard of before. We were given some time to rest and eventually called to dinner – a seemingly endless variety of vegetables, meats, sauces and salads decorated in small bowls. Eating with the locals in the middle of nowhere, learning new Vietnamese words and drinking rice wine – Jewel Tours brings authenticity to you. After many more of the small home-brewed shots we called it a night and got comfortable in our small private berths, admittedly not the coziest ones, but that’s a price I was happy to pay for such an ardent experience!

Sapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, trip

Next morning, 6 a.m., cocks crowing, kids shrieking – time to get up and go for a walk along the peaceful hilly rice fields,  watching the local women working in their traditional robes and the kids taking the water buffaloes for a walk. Equipped with a camera you can take amazing pictures here! You can walk as deep into the fields as you like, balance on the narrow paths, wade the mud and even try planting rice yourself! Covered in mud we came back and took a bath in the river across the cottage to then enjoy a marvelous little breakfast on the terrace of the house.

Sapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, tripSapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, trip

After some time to rest we headed out for our daytime adventure – getting to know more of the mountainous, colorfully shining countryside on a bus ride with our local experts. The next 4 hours we spent driving up and down the little roads, stopping for picture breaks but not once being able to take our eyes off the picturesque rice terraces around us. Jewel Tours helps you communicate with the locals, make you understand their lives and let you try their organic food. Throughout the entire afternoon our crazy little (but incredibly friendly) tour guide supplied us with interesting information and some stories about the local life here – Hung really knows how to entertain and educate those who want to learn about the culture!
Sapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, tripSapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, tripSapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, trip

We came back to the cottage for lunch, equally rich as last day’s dinner, and rested with local coffee on the terrace. We then made our way to Sapa city to check in to our hotel for the night. On a late afternoon walk we discovered the beautiful city center and went shopping on the bustling night market. There were life performances on the main square of the city, street sellers, musicians, craftsmen,.. it was just great to be among so many locals doing their day-to-day things. Jewel Tours organized a beautiful local dinner at one of the restaurants near the market: Hot Pot – the most traditional dish in Vietnam, consisting of different sorts of fish, leaves, mushrooms, shrimps and meat all boiled in a commonly shared pot in the middle of the table. Fantastic! Taking a last stroll over the market we ambled towards the hotel and ended the day with a glass of red wine on the terrace.

Sapa, Hill tribe, authentic, local, North Vietnam, trip 

After a Pho-breakfast on the next morning we got onto the bus and made our way towards the Chinese border to discover one of the most bustling markets I have ever seen. No tourists anywhere, everyday life of the local people, unknown fruits and vegetables - I would never have thought that Jewel Tours would bring me to a remote place like this. And after we had discovered every small corner of the venue, we enjoyed a typical Chinese meal and eventually got back onto the bus to initiate our return to Hanoi. What a fantastic journey!


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