Ban Khoang is a remote village in Sapa. These are some pictures we took after our recent trip to Ban Khoang in 2013.

Location: Sapa Market is in Sapa Town, Sapa District, Lao Cai Province.

Characteristics: This market of the H'Mong and Red Dao minorities takes place every Saturday night. The market is a place for trading and exchanging local goods and products, as well as a meeting place for young people who seek partners by singing love songs and playing pan-pipes and mouth organs.

When the sun goes down, the H'Mong and Red Dao boys and girls cluster together in groups of five to ten. Looking and smiling at each other, they sit side by side in the dim yellow light and sing and talk through the night. When they have met their soul mate, they exchange gifts and make plans to see each other again the following week.

This cultural activity has a long history and is still significant in the modern life of the minority people. The Sapa Market is an attractive place for visitors who are keen on exploring traditional cultures.
Lao Cai Train Station stated ticket office times are 08:00 to 10:00 and 14:00 to 16:00 although the desks appear to be open until the last train departs.

Tickets to Hanoi can be bought at the station or from one of the private operators, such as Livitrains on Phan Dinh Phung. If you're on a trip from Hanoi then it's best to get a return ticket sorted in Hanoi as trains get busy and you might find yourself stranded or paying big money for a private carriage. Note though that even buying at the train station in Hanoi won't guarantee you the ticket you want — we're guessing that travel agents buy up all the tickets so those of us not willing to pay the 50% commission might not have much luck.

These prices are for the regular, public cars, not the ones run by private companies — and unless you buy direct from the station you will end up paying quite a lot more.
Sapa Transportation

Sapa is one of the most beautiful destinations in the north of Vietnam. From Hanoi, there are many ways to reach Sapa.

By train

From Hanoi, you can take a night train which departs from Hanoi railway station every night. This night train offers different class of tickets for tourists. You can choose a seat or a comfortable bed with different price ranges. Tickets can be booked by yourself right at Hanoi Station or booked through any travel agency in Hanoi. It takes up to nine hours to reach Lao Cai Railway station. From Lao Cai station, you will take another minibus drive to Sapa town, which may take around one hour. The minibus will take you along the winding road, nice valleys and fantastic rice paddies before arriving at Sapa.

By road

There are regular night buses and coaches from My Dinh Station, Hanoi to Lao Cai which takes about ten hours. Besides, you can also choose other options such as traveling by motorbike, which may be more dangerous since the road is rather long and bumpy with deep valleys. If you are panning to travel by motorbike, you must take care to avoid excessive speeds and select vehicles or bikes suitable for all types of terrain. The rainy season should be avoided if you plan an off the beaten track route, unless you are a very experienced offroader. In case you are a first time traveler, you may get a trael agency to arrange a trip by private jeep or combo jeep.

Getting around

Sapa town is not that big, so it is not too difficult to travel around the whole town. You can walk or trek to the villages nearby the town center. For further villages and beauty spots, you may hire a motorbike or join in a minibus trip which is common place in Sapa.
With stunning natural landscape as well as cool weather, Sapa is widely known as the second Dalat in Vietnam. The town is perched on the eastern slopes of Hoang Lien Son mountain range (which is also known as the Tonkinese Alps). Under the French colonial period, many hotels, villas and tennis courts had been constructed there and the region was once transformed into a summer retreat.

Today, Sapa is an ideal place for tourists for its beautiful scenery and the diversification in culture. Sapa is now a destination where tourists can take part in various activities and tours from sightseeing, trekking, mountain climbing, cycling, etc.

Visiting Sapa in any season has its own special features. In spring, visitors will have opportunity to observe the romantic landscape with blooming colorful flowers. In summer, the flowers pass by and will be replaced by ripen fruits. In this period of time, the waterfalls in Sapa are at its best beauty. In autumn, the yellow terrace fields, which have become a hot theme for photographers, will surely attract you. The best time to observe such marvelous rice paddies is in September. In winter, Sapa’s weather turns colder then usual and sometimes, there will be snow in some places. These are the four seasons with different characteristics in landscape that Sapa offers tourists. However, with regards to the temperature only, you can experience all the four seasons in one day in Sapa.

Tourists traveling to Sapa not only for its natural beauty, but also for its cultural beauty since Sapa is home of a large number of ethnic minority groups. Several ethnic groups to be found is Sapa (Lao Cai) include: the H’mong, Dao, White Thai, GIay, Tay, Muong, Xa Pho, etc. The most prominent among these are the Red Dao and the H’mong. The Red Dao can easily be identified by the coin-dangling red headdresses and intricately embroidered waistcoats worn by the women, and the Hmong can be distinguished by their somewhat less elaborately embroidered royal blue attire. A popular scene that you may often see when staying in Sapa town are the women with brocatelle products on their hands asking you to buy some, or the small children keep following you along your trekking route into the villages. You don’t have to worry much about them since they would probably do no harm to you.

Sapa is not only well-known for the landscape, for the diversified culture, but also is famed for its “Love Market” - where the ethnic boys and girls often gather to find his/her love. However, Love Market today is not as meaningful as that in the pas. Tourists still feel curious about this market since it somehow reflects the traditional real Love Market. The Red Dao hill tribe youths of both sexes congregate in a weekly courting rite, singing tribal versions of Loretta Lynn love songs to woo the opposite sex. The songs are highly personalized and boast of the composer's physical attributes, domestic abilities and strong work ethic. It’s interesting to observe what local people do in this Love Market, so give it a chance despite the transformation in current conditions.

Villages of different ethnic minority groups in Sapa have also become popular attractions, especially for foreigners. They are curious about and eager to explore the special features of each village which is home to specific ethnic groups. Several well-known villages in Sapa are the Cat Cat, Ta Phin, Sin Chai, Lao Chai, Ta Van, etc, which are located in the valleys of Muong Hoa, O Quy Ho, Lao Chai, Ta Phin…

Sapa has been becoming a great tourism destination. In coming years, it is expected that more tourists will visit Sapa. However, the development of tourism must go along with the sustainable development of the environment. That’s the aim of Sapa as well as of other tourist attractions in Vietnam.
Ham Rong Mountain, Lao Cai

Ham Rong Mountain is situated in the center of Sapa town, near Sapa church and Sapa market. The trail leading up to the Cloud Yard (San May) is beautiful with various kinds of flowers and trees. You will surely be impressed by the orchid gardens, the numerous caves and stones shaped strangely. From the Cloud Yard, tourists can enjoy the panorama view of Sapa town with clouds covering above.

Ham Rong Mountain is attached with a legend. It goes that, when hearing the order of the Jade of Emperor that every species of animals have to find themselves another place to reside, the three dragons brother had to leave for other places. They decided to move east but there is no space left, then they move west. The two elder dragons moved faster and reach the destination first while the youngest one was still on the way. He 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 Town, and the youngest one raising its head and opening mouth faces the Hoang Lien Mountain Range. That’s why the mountain is named Ham Rong (Jaw of Dragon).

Today, you can observe the Mountain, which has become the highlight of Sapa, from almost any place in town.
Sapa Ancient Rock Field

Location: Sapa Ancient Rock Field is in Muong Hoa Valley, Hau Thao Commune, Sapa District, Lao Cai Province.
Characteristic: This of remains consists of large multi-grade rocks engraved with ancient images.

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. The da chong and da vo tell the story of faithful love between a couple who overcame all difficulties to be together; even though they turned to stone, they are still dedicated to each other.

Archaeologists have proven that this area has been inhabited since ancient times. These fascinating Viet remains have drawn the attention of scientists and tourists.