Sa Pa is a beautiful place. Inspiring landscapes and colourful cultures. It is a photographer’s mecca, an explorer’s playground and many travelers’ favorite place. Sa Pa is renowned for its trekking and has historically been an escape from the heat and humidity of Ha Noi.
The guide books and trekking options offered by tour operators have done their very best to provide for the many tourists coming to Sa Pa. A quick glance at a tour program or a Google search of Sa Pa will produce a variety of Sa Pa tours and possible villages to visit. Popular tourist spots include: Cat Cat village, Ta Phin village, Lao Chai village, Tavan village, Ban Ho village and Bac Ha market.
Cat Cat village is a short walk from Sa Pa town. It is a Hmong village with a few great photo opportunities with locals, a picturesque waterfall, and scenic backdrops. Not taking more that a half day, this village can be done independently or with a local H’mong guide organized with a responsible tour operator.
Ta Phin is a 20 minute drive or a 4 hour trek from Sa Pa. Predominantly a Red Dao village, there is a small commune of Black H’mong on the west side of the valley. Incredibly scenic and alive with an infamous moving market of Dao street sellers. Ta Phin has been primarily offered as a half-day trip, however, the increased zealousness of the street-sellers has made it somewhat unattractive to tour operators.
Ta Phin village is not to missed. The most sustainable option recommended by www.cbtvietnam.com is a trek from Sa Pa and an overnight in one of the homestays. Definitely, ask your concierge or tour operator to set you up a customized tour if the option is not listed! Here is a website about Ta Phin for more information.
Lao Chai is a Hmong village in the descending valley southwest of Sa Pa. Easily accessed by a number of trekking routes, this hilltribe village can be reached in three hours by the average trekker. Thus far, this village has not been distanced from the tourism economy and has only been a lunch rest spot for trekking tourists on their way to Tavan. Most of the local Black Hmong guides are from this village and some are currently working with their families and the Capilano University CBT Project to set up homestays.
Ta Van has become the most popular trekking destination in all of Sa Pa. The Giay (Day) ethnic minority has truly been entrepreneurial and industrious in retrofitting their homes to offer a place for trekkers to spend the night. It is not uncommon for Ta Van to have 25 or more homestays being occupied with groups as large as 10 tourists.
The village of Ta Van is in a stage of rapid development. The tourism industry there is flourishing and the impacts are clearly visible. With tourist numbers always increasing the future of this area as a destination might be in hands of the tourist. Go to the Trekking in Sapa page for more information about how to contribute to a more sustainable type of travel in villages such as Ta Van.