Hello! I've been reading this forum with interest as we plan out trip for next fall. We are planning for ~3 weeks in Vietnam (perhaps 3 days in Siem Reap/Angor Wat as well). I will likely ask for advice on our entire itinerary at a later date, but for now was hoping to get some opinions on travelling in the north. We are considering Sapa , as many do, but are also intrigued by Ha Giang and the surrounding area (e.g., Dong Van). Sapa seems "easier" to arrange independently (can take a train, arrange treks when you get there) but the Ha Giang area looks freakin' gorgeous, and less touristy. We're interested in natural scenery, a bit of trekking, and checking out a market.
Can anyone comment? We could devote ~5-6 days to the region. I suspect a tour would be easiest if we went the Ha Giang route, so if anyone has a recommendation, it would be appreciated. We're more "budget" travellers, but will splurge a bit for this leg if it's worth it. Thanks much.
#1 junebug has been a member since 25/2/2012. Posts: 9
I've been to Sapa twice, but never to Ha Giang, but I think I understand the situation pretty well. Seems to me the advantage of Ha Giang would be a more natural setting (lack of tourists) vs Sapa which is overrun with tourists most of the time. I also believe that you'd need considerably more time to travel there, and once you get there, the accommodation/food are most likely more rustic and more limited. You could possibly have a language problem in HG as well. I would think that you'd need a private tour of HG (not cheap) - I've never seen any group tours heading up there?
#2 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,111
Thanks for the replies. I think we are now leaning towards Sapa as we'd like to do some trekking and most of the Ha Giang tours I've seen involve a lot of driving (totally understandable, since it's so remote). As we don't ride motorbikes, we would need to do a 4WD tour. Even though the Ha Giang scenery looks fab, I'm pretty sure my travel companion will get restless spending that much time in a car each day! If we could somehow squeeze in both (Ha Giang driving tour, ending in Sapa for a couple of days) we would, but I'm afraid our time will be too limited.
I'm still open to persuasion, however. [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img] But if we went to Sapa, does anyone have suggestions for some cool daytrips from Sapa to get away from the crowds (or nice moderate trekking routes)?
#4 junebug has been a member since 25/2/2012. Posts: 9
For me Ha Giang wins hands down for scenery, local experience and such.
Can fully understand though if someone would choose Sapa over HG because of easier travel, hotels and all other things that make Sapa more convenient. However, if you're in for a little more adventure and that "1 special experience off the beaten path" this area would be your best candidate.
As daawgon said: Read the blog that has just been posted, you could find some valuable information there.
Thanks guys! I agree with everything said above and get your reservations about Ha Giang. There are many differences between the two places, and I think both are worth a visit, but sounds like Sapa might suit your needs best this time.
I don't have any specific recommendations on day trips from Sapa, but I don't think it's difficult to get away from the crowds: for example, last time I went, my friend and I arranged a private day trek from our hotel and walked up to the Heaven's Gate waterfall (I think that's what it's called). We didn't see any other tourists for the whole of the trek, until we got to the waterfall, and the scenery was fantastic.
If you're there over a weekend then you could go to Bac Ha for the market. I wouldn't necessarily recommend a day trip from Sapa for this though - go on a Saturday, stay over night and get up early for the best of the market experience.
You can head further northwest from Sapa, up to Lai Chau and beyond, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as, apart from scenery, there's not a lot to do and no infrastructure for e.g. arranging treks. Great if you're on a bike, but not so much if you're in a cramped bus.
Anyway, read the two blogs on Ha Giang - they might change your mind!