Eat and meet
Sapaf you stroll down Cau May just south of the stadium (or town square or town pentagon), there are foreigner-friendly places as thick as the evening mist. There's little to differentiate between the menus; perhaps if some of them specialised a bit more they might do better, but it seems everyone's trying to offer a bit of everything — even the Indian offers pizza. That's an exaggeration but you get the idea. Even the Pine Restaurant, one the lone Vietnamese restaurant on Cau May, offers a token selection of Western options.
At the bottom of the street, the Highland Bakery has a pleasant, low-key atmosphere, with reasonably-priced western food, baked goods like onion bread, and scrumptious looking cakes. WiFi is also available, along with very good coffees, so laptop users can get wired while they get wired. There's another branch on Fansipan.
Viet Emotion Restaurant Tapas Cafe remains a popular option. Go here for a good selection of western brekkies, very pricey hotpots, meat dishes, pasta and risotto, as well as sandwiches and hamburgers. And, lest we forget, the specialty here is tapas. A bit pricey but one of the few tapas places in Vietnam. The wine list is lengthy enough and there are a couple of tables on the terrace out front.
Just up the hill to the right of the Pine are two places worth mentioning. The Gerbera offers pizzas and western dishes that attract a steady crowd and The Mimosa has a pleasant, elegant atmosphere. Good mountain views are available if you eat al fresco.
Back down on Cau May street proper, Nature Bar has a very nice atmosphere, with dark wood everywhere, including the A-frame ceiling, and a very comfortable common area around an open fire for cold winter evenings. The menu promises much the same grub as you'll find elsewhere along with some tempting sounding breakfast options. There's another branch — or copycat — called Mountain View at the bottom end of Fansipan, with similarly attractive décor and great views over the valley.
Also on Cau May, the Sapa Lotus offers intimate, candle-lit dining making it a good choice for some quality time with your significant other — you can pick up a set of imported Australian lamb chops here for US$10 and they do a breakfast buffet for $2.50 but get there early before the best bits run out. But if you want something even more special, try the Cha Pa Restaurant, up the steps by T-Bone — a beautiful setting is complemented by a delicious sounding menu and a lengthy wine list.
The T-Bone Steak House, under the same ownership as Delta Italian, is all about imported Aussie beef, but expect to pay Aussie prices for the privilege. Further down the street is Delta Italian Restaurant itself. You'll get the full range of Italian dishes, including pizzas that are good but would be more satisfying if they were cheaper. Still, you can't beat the gorgonzola gnocchi to fulfil that carb and cheese craving. Tung is a wine nut, so a variety of vintages are found on the menu here. The Bombay Palace, over the road from Delta, has recently been added to the group and employs Indian chefs to cook up the meals. There's a buffet there from Thursday through Sunday.
Getting away from the Cau May gauntlet, the Gecko Restaurant on Thach Son near the post office is Sapa's first French restaurant with a genuine French owner and a menu mostly featuring hamburgers and Italian food rather than French fare. There's a ‘Le Petit Gecko' over the road on Xuan Vien. — More true to its reputation is Baguette and Chocolate, just up the hill on Thac Bac. The atmosphere is cosy, with a big fireplace to curl up next to on a cold day, and a very good variety of snacks, main meals, tasty pastries and desserts to keep your tummy warm as well. It's part of a training project to teach job skills to disadvantaged youth, but forget about all that, it's a good place in its own right. You might take them up on one of their picnic baskets if you're headed out on a trek.
Along Fansipan, Sapa Rooms employs staff trained by KOTO in Hanoi and serves Vietnamese and Western fare at reasonable prices for a fancy looking place — it's a lovely environment for just a drink too, with board games available. The Boutique Hotel opposite has an attractive restaurant overlooking the valley, with candlelit tables at night and a small but varied menu — the latte and hot chocolate are delicious too. There's also a café alongside in the New Wing.
For a very fancy meal, don't forget about the restaurant in the Victoria Sapa Hotel, which sits at the top of the town above the park. Expensive by local standards, of course, but you won't pay more than you would for a splurge back home.
At the other end of the scale, there are plenty of food stalls in town, particularly if you're in the mood for grilled meat and fish. Try near the church (note, the stalls sometimes set up at the north of Fansipan instead) for BBQ stalls where you can pick up a tasty pork kebab for 10,000 and wash it down with a beer or two.
Could you eat a horse? You could, if you like, by heading to Ma Le Thang Co, in the back of the Do Nuong market, which is the one along the base of Thac Bac. There's Indian-style seating around low tables on two floors of the wooden building. If you're wondering what horse tastes like — much like you'd expect it to. Horsey. Also, pricey, by local standards, at 150,000 VND for hotpot that serves one or 250,000 for two people.
Sapa isn't much for nightlife and by evening, most people are weary from travel and trekking anyway. It makes sense to pick a place to stay with a nice terrace, with good views and good brews where you can just sit and swap lies with your fellow travellers. But you can shake things up, if only slightly, with a visit to Hmong Sister Bar, on Muong Hoa opposite Bamboo Sapa Hotel, which offers a pool table, flashing lights, eclectic music and good deals on beer and keeps going until after midnight. Just make sure your hotel will let you back in when you stagger home after midnight.
Baguette and Chocolat: Thac Bac, up the hill on the left, Sapa. T: (020) 871 766. Hours: 07:00-09:30 http://www.hoasuaschool.com
Bombay Indian Restaurant: 36 Cau May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 799 F: (020) 387 1819.
Boutique Hotel: 41 Fansipan, Sapa. T: (020) 387 2727 F: (020) 387 2678. http://www.sapaboutiquehotels.com
Cha Pa Garden: 23b Cau May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 2907 F: (020) 387 2906 . http://www.chapagarden.com
Delta Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar: 33 Cay May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 1799 F: (020) 387 1819. email@example.com
The Gecko: Ham Rom St, near the Post Office, Sapa. T: (020) 387 1504, (0903) 210 477 F: (020) 387 1898. Hours: 07:00-22:00 http://geckosapa.com
Gerbera: Cau May (above the Pine Restaurant), Sapa. T: (020) 387 1064, (0904) 345 179. Hours: 07:00-24:00
Le Petit Gecko: 45 Xuan Vien St, opposite the park, Sapa. T: (020) 387 131, (0903) 49 4299 F: (020) 387 1898.
Highland Bakery Hotel Restaurant: 50 Cau May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 1870, F: (020) 387 1851. Hours: 07:00-22:00
H'mong Sister Bar: 31 Muong Hoa (Pho Cau May), Sapa. T: (020) 387 3370, (0983) 379 862. Hours: 08:00 till whenever the last customer leaves
Ma Le Thang Co (horse hotpots): Thac Bac (in the craft market), Sapa. T: (020) 387 2885, (0913) 328 7984.
Mimosa Family Restaurant: Cau May (above the Pine Restaurant), Sapa. T: (020) 387 1377, (0912) 578 317. Hours: 08:00-23:00
Nature Bar and Grill: 24 Cau May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 2094, (020) 350 2074 F: (020) 387 1438. Hours: 07:00-23:00
Pine Restaurant: 29 Cau May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 2417
Sapa Lotus: 34 Cau May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 3567. Hours: 07:00-22:00
Sapa Rooms: 18 Fansipan, Sapa. T: (020) 387 2130 F: (020) 387 2131. http://www.saparooms.com
T-Bone Steak House: 28 Cau May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 3208. F: (020) 387 1819.
Viet Emotion Restaurant Tapas Bar: 27 Cau May, Sapa. T: (020) 387 2559, (0912) 032 908. Hours: 07:00-22;00 www.vietemotion.com
Victoria Sapa Hotel Restaurant: Above Xuan Vien, Sapa. T: (020) 387 1522, F: (020) 387 1539.
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