I stayed in Golden Villa Hotel for 1 night. I had booked this as part of an overnight tour through my hotel in Hanoi – La Storia Ruby Hotel.
The hotel was in a good location, surrounded by convenience stores, restaurants and bars.
The room was big, clean and comfortable.
The tour cost USD $129.00 each, and included transportation round trip by bus, all meals, sightseeing fees and an English speaking tour guide.
I got picked up from my hotel in Hanoi at 6:45am, along with a takeaway breakfast that the hotel had prepared for me and was transferred to a ‘Green Sapa Bus‘.
The Green Sapa Bus was a sleeper bus, and was very modern and clean – free WiFi was also available! Food and drink, except from water, was not allowed on the bus and you had to take your shoes off and put them in a plastic bag provided.
The journey took approximately 6 hours, with 2 stops en-route. At the first stop, we had 10 minutes and there was toilets at a charge of 3,000 VND. At the second stop, we had 30 minutes which enough time to get some food. The toilets here were squatty toilets.
I eventually arrived at the Green Sapa Bus depot in Sapa and was greeted by a H’mong lady holding a sign with my name on it. She showed me to my hotel, Golden Villa Hotel, and I checked-in to my room.
I had the set menu for lunch, included in my tour price, in the restaurant and met my tour guide and the rest of the group at 2:30pm for a 3 hour trek through Cat Cat Village. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard; the rice paddy fields were quite slippery and although I was told it would be cooler in Sapa, it was still hot!
During the trek, our tour guide showed us how the people in the village use indigo to dye clothes. It was interesting to see them doing everything manually.
We also visited Tien Sa Waterfall, and watched a traditional Cat Cat Village dance.
After the trek, I returned back to the hotel for a shower before heading down for the set menu dinner served between 6:30pm – 8:30pm. I went to Relax Bar just across the road from my hotel for a cocktail before a well-needed sleep.
The next morning, I met the tour guide and the rest of the group at 8:30am, and started out trek through the rice paddy fields. Soon we were joined by other H’mong ladies who helped us down the rice paddies – it was hard work, but the views were worth it!
We trekked for approximately 12km to Lào Cai, where we were served an abundance of delicious food for lunch. The local women and children flocked to the tourists trying to sell their souvenirs, and I ended up buying a cute little bracelet from a 12 year old girl for 5,000 VND.
We trekked for a further hour, past our tour guide’s house and she invited us inside. Seeing how other people live really puts things into perspective; her home had the bare minimal in it, with the living area, kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area all being in one room. I don’t think of these people as being less fortunate than me; I actually think they are truly happier, and therefore they are far more fortunate than me in some ways.
It was so lovely to see young Vietnamese boys splashing around in the local lake, stark naked, playing together. They weren’t phased that they don’t have the latest iPads or designer clothes, they were making the most of what they’ve got and they seem a lot happier for it.
Once we’d finished the trek, we got collected by mini-van and made our way back to the hotel to collect our luggage before heading back to Hanoi on the 4pm bus from Sapa.
Although I found it hard work trekking through the rice paddy fields in the blistering heat, I am so glad I did it – difficult paths really do lead to beautiful destinations. Even if my whole body ached for about 3 days afterwards!
Up next: Hue