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Vietnam forum

Sapa: Trekking and homestay or climb mt Fansipan? (or both?)

Posted by mmoody on 7/12/2013 at 16:15

I am trying to plan out my trip to SE Asia in April. I will be arriving into Hanoi and have a couple days to go up to Sapa . I am fairly fit (personal trainer) so a friend mentioned a hike to Mt Fansipan as a highlight of her trip years ago. It sounds interesting to me, but it seems like from what I can gather that you don't see much of the hill tribes when doing this hike. Is it possible to do some trekking to villages one day and then the hike to Fansipan the next? (I know it's strenuous to do it in one day from what I have read I think I am capable and the camping sites en route sound not good at all).

I do want to see some culture outside of the city, which is why Sapa interests me. Will I be missing out on this if I focus my time climbing Mt. Fansipan? Can I do a one day hike (no homestay) and still see some interesting things or is everything that is available by a one day hike over touristy and not authentic at all?

Thanks in advance for your tips!

#1 mmoody has been a member since 7/12/2013. Posts: 6

Posted by MADMAC on 8/12/2013 at 12:07

Sapa is a huge tourist destination, so that impacts of course on the "authenticity" of anything you do out there - like any huge tourist destination anywhere in the world. That said, you ommitted how much time you have to spend on this leg of your trip. You sound like you are in a hurry. That's one detail I'd include.

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Posted by mmoody on 8/12/2013 at 14:49

yes you are right, I don't have a ton of time (unless I scrap a trip to halong bay, but I am thinking I would like to inculde that too). I will have 2-3 days in Sapa . So I could do a day trek one day and climb mt fansipan the next, I am thinking that will get me nice and tired to be able to get some shut eye on the overnight train back to Hanoi . I could do 3 days in Sapa if I found a company in Hanoi that had a 3 day trek/homstay that really appealed to me.

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Posted by MADMAC on 8/12/2013 at 21:55

You want to climb a mountain and then get on a train the same day? That doesn't sound like a relaxing vacation to me - call me strange on this one.

Catba posted this years back - might still be useful:

At the Mountain View Hotel there is a Mrs. Hong there who runs a guide service. Many of them are female and young but are very experienced in showing visitors around. For Mount PhanXiPan climbers she has a man named Chang - he is strong enough to assist the weary climbers. Always ask for the long route to the top - the short one is too steep.

Other guides are SO or TUNG (a Black H'Mong) located through Sa Pa Goldsea Hotel, < >, 58 Fanxipan Road, Tel: 84-(0)-20-872-180 / 84-(0)-20-871-869.
Villages worth visiting are Cat Cat, GiangTaChai, TaPhin, YLinhHo, HauThao, SuPan (easily the most beautiful village in Sapa area).
Another excellent guide is "Thanh-Sa Pa" < >, guiding for over 6 years and has good English. An enterprising guy, he has a tour that includes night 1 in Tavan, Dzay People, night 2 in Seo Trung Ho, Red Dzao, night 3 Ban Ho, Tay People, night 4,5 in Sa Pa, day 6 is for the Montagnard market.

But on ALL accounts avoid guides from the Victoria! (And the Victoria Hotel itself).

Note: You MUST employ a guide if you climb Mount FanSiPan as ONLY they can obtain the required climbing permit from the police. Do NOT worry if the guide appears young, or female, as they all have excellent guiding skills and are likely stronger than you!

And ALL your money helps the locals rather than enriching some cowboy in Ha Noi.

There is regular Sunday bus to Bac Ha from Sa Pa but you can get there by local bus from Lao Cai . There are over 600 hotel rooms of all types in Bac Ha - just make sure you are not too near a street loudspeaker as the chair of the Lao Cai Peoples Committee believes in only setting the volume at high!

Remember Friday and Saturday rates for hotels, etc are higher than the rest of the week. Book your rail reservation at least two days ahead at 120 La Duane - and avoid Ha Noi agent markups and the chance of a different class of service.

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Posted by travellingsarah on 9/12/2013 at 02:30 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I've never climbed Fansipan myself but just asked a friend who climbed it over 2 days and he says it would be possible to do over one day if you were extremely fit but you might get back after dark and it's more enjoyable over 2 days.

One day treks around Sapa can still be interesting and enjoyable. I wrote about a couple of them here.

I really think however, that trying to do both over a 2 day trip, with a train journey either side, will be exhausting and you won't get the most out of the Fansipan trip. If possibly try to extend to 3 days. And maybe find out why the climb was the highlight of your friend's trip - that might help prioritise.

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Posted by ongjoel on 9/12/2013 at 03:30

On my experience after trip, I see if you prefer to see local villages or tribes, it is better you should take trekking easy and then stay at hotel, better than homestay. Since home stay is very basic, and you stay in group together on floor middle of house.
But u said you are fairly fit (personal trainer), with strong healthy, so why not try hiking , adventurous climbing Fansipan ?
at least u need 2 days for doing it, can not be in 1 day.

It is possible to do some trekking to villages one or 2 days and then do the hike to Fansipan the next? and the camping sites en route is sure to happen. Imagine, in the middle of mountain, where do u find the smooth beds at hotel room as in Sapa? or u come back on the middle of journey ? it can not right?

Yes, u will be missing out a lot culture, and tradition of local remote areas if u focus time climbing Mt. Fansipan. For us, a lot of funny and excited got during 2 days trip in Sapa, locals villages. We got our guide coming from H's Mong, Minh she was very useful, any our questions be satisfied all. And Sapa-Trekking Tours help us arrange it all.
Have fun, and try it out. hope for your great trip

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Posted by mmoody on 9/12/2013 at 10:58

Thanks for your feedback. I am thinking maybe I will wait until I am in Hanoi or maybe Sapa and see how the weather is and what I am feeling up to. I am not married to the idea of doing Fansipan, so if it doesn't happen I would be happy checking out Sapa and some of the surrounding villages.

#7 mmoody has been a member since 7/12/2013. Posts: 6

Posted by MADMAC on 20/12/2013 at 11:04

It's snowing? Sapa is definitely off the list of any winter travel destinations. I'm freezing my ass off in Mukdahan. Snow? The last thing I want to ever see again in my lifetime.

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Posted by brambora on 15/1/2014 at 10:25

If you end up "just" doing a day hike or walk around Sapa , ask other travelers to recommend guides. I'd skip the travel agents, there are Hmong women that come to Sapa every day and hang out at the church or around town and are always searching for travelers in hopes of being hired as thier guide for the day. They offer treks to their houses or just around to the rice fields, with or without a homestay. That is what I did on two different days with two different guides and both were excellent (recommended by travel friends I made in Sapa). One was Zee (one traveler made business cards for her, so you may get one handed to you.. if you do, call her and go for it!), the other was Kaa (very nice girl, great English!). Zee took me and a friend to her house (about a 4 hour hike) and made us lunch in her house while we hung around and interacted with her kids, then she took us to the road and caught us a moto taxi back to Sapa (30 mins). The day after that me and three others that I met went out to the rice fields with Kaa, that was an easy walk for about 3-4 hours total and it was fantastic (even though it started raining hard on our walk back!).
I also thought about climbing mt. Fansipan, but I decided that the villages and treks with actual Hmong people were the real reason that a person goes to Sapa, and I was happy with my decision.
You can also rent a moto and just drive yourself to the surrounding mountains, the area is beautiful! We rented motos for $5 for the whole day, it was really worth it!
Have a great trip!

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Posted by mmoody on 15/1/2014 at 11:07

awesome, thanks so much for your reply brambora! That sounds like what i might do.


#10 mmoody has been a member since 7/12/2013. Posts: 6

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