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Guide about Sa Pa
SAPA
 
It is most likely that Sa Pa was first inhabited by highland minorities of the Hmong and Yao groups, as well as by smaller numbers of Tày and Giay, these being the four main minority groups still present in Sa Pa district today. The Kinh (lowland Vietnamese) never originally colonised this highest of Vi?t Nam’s valleys, which lies in the shadow of Phan-Xi-Pang (Fansipan, 3143 meters), the highest peak in the country.

It was only when the French debarked in highland Tonkin in the late 1880s that Sa Pa, or Chapa as the French called it, began to appear on the national map. In the following decade, the future site of Sa Pa town started to see military parties as well as missionaries from the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris (MEP) visit. The French military marched from the Red River Delta into the northern mountainous regions as part of Tonkin’s ‘pacification’. In 1894-96 the border between China and Tonkin was formally agreed upon and the Sa Pa area, just to the south of this frontier, was placed under French authority. From 1891 the entire Lào Cai region, including Sa Pa, came under direct colonial military administration so as to curtail banditry and political resistance on the sensitive northern frontier.

The first permanent French civilian resident arrived in Sa Pa in 1909. With its attractive continental climate, health authorities believed the site had potential. By 1912 a military sanatorium for ailing officers had been erected along with a fully fledged military garrison. Then, from the 1920s onwards, several wealthy professionals with enough financial capital also had a number of private villas built in the vicinity.

At the end of the Second World War a long period of hostilities began in Tonkin that was to last until 1954. In the process, nearly all of the 200 or so colonial buildings in or around Sa Pa were destroyed, either by Vi?t Minh sympathisers in the late 1940s, or, in the early 1950s by French air raids. The vast majority of the Viet population fled for their lives, and the former town entered a prolonged sleep.

In the early 1960s, thanks to the New Economic Zones migration scheme set up by the new Socialist regime, new inhabitants from the lowlands started to migrate to the region.

The short 1979 occupation of the northern border region by Chinese troops had little impact on Sa Pa town, but did force the Kinh (lowland Vietnamese) population out for a month.

In 1993 the last obstacle to Sa Pa's full rebirth as a prominent holiday destination was lifted as the decision was made to open the door fully to international tourism. Sa Pa was back on the tourist trail again, this time for a newly emerging local elite tourist crowd, as well as international tourists.

In 2006, the Chairman of The People's Committee of Sapa Province was elected to The Communist Party Central Committee as the youngest ever member (born in 1973).


Before the 1990s, the town's economy was mainly based on small size agriculture.

Tourist arrival between 1995 and 2003 grew from a total of 4860 to 138,622. On average, this cohort is made of 79% Vietnamese and 21% foreigners.

 

Located 38km from Lao Cai City, Sapa is a mountainous district of  Lao Cai Province. Sapa District is very well-known with Sapa Townlet, a beautiful and romantic resort.
At the height of 1,600m above sea level, the average temperature of the area is 15-18°C. It is cool in summer and cold in winter.

Visitor to Sapa in summer can feel the climate of four seasons in o­ne day. In the morning and afternoon, it is cool like the weather of spring and autumn. At noon, it is as sunny and cloudless as the weather of summer. And it is cold in the evening. With no advance warning of a thunderstorm short and heavy rains may come at noon o­n any summer day. Subsequently, a rainbow appears, transforming Sapa into a magic land, which for years has been a constant source of poetic inspiration, lights up the whole region.

The best time to witness the scenic beauty of Sapa is in April and May. Before that period, the weather might be cold and foggy; after that period is the rainy season. In April and May, Sapa is blooming with flowers and green pastures. The clouds that settle in the valley in early morning quickly disappear into thin air.
 

Ham Rong Mountain

Sapa has many natural sites such as Ham Rong Mountain, Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest and Ta Phin Cave.Sapa is also the starting point for many climbers and scientists who want to reach the top of Fansipan Mountain, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143m. Hoang Lien Mountain Range is also called the Alps of the North Sea area since Fansipan Mountain is not o­nly the highest peak in Vietnam, but also in the Indochina Peninsula. The pyramid-shaped mountain is covered with clouds all year round and temperatures often drop below zero, especially at high elevations.

The first thing you notice when approaching the resort town are some detached wooden mansions and villas perched o­n a hill top or hillside, behind thick pine forests and almost invisible o­n this foggy morning. Old and new villas with red roofs now appear and now disappear in the green rows of pomu trees, bringing the town the beauty of European towns.

Fresh and cool air in Sapa is an idea climate condition for growing temperate vegetables such as cabbage, chayote, precious medicinal herbs, and fruit trees such as plum, pear…

 

Sapa Market

Sapa is home to various families of flowers of captivating colours, which can be found nowhere else in the country. When Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival, comes, the whole township of Sapa is filled with the pink colour of peach blossom brought from the vast forests of peach just outside the town. Sapa is regarded as the kingdom of orchids. Here, orchid lovers are even amazed by the choice, when trekking in the forest filled with several hundred kinds of orchids of brilliant colours and fantastic shapes, such as Orchid Princess, Orchid of My Fair Lady's Shoe. Some orchids are named after lovely singing birds such as the canary, salangane's nest, and more.

Sapa is most beautiful in spring. Apricot, plum and cherry flowers are splendidly beautiful. Markets are crowded and merry, and are especially attractive to visitors. Minority groups come here to exchange and trade goods and products. Market sessions are also a chance for locals to promenade and young men and women in colorful costumes to meet, date or seek sweethearts.

Visitors to Sapa will have opportunities to discover the unique customs of the local residents.
 
Fansipan Mountain

Location: Fansipan Mountain is located 9km south-west of Sapa Townlet in the Hoang Lien Mountain Range.
Characteristics: Fansipan is branded "the Roof of Indochina" at the height of 3,143m; Fansipan is to be approved as o­ne of the very few eco-tourist spots of Vietnam, with about 2,024 floral varieties and 327 faunal species.
The topography of Fansipan is varied. Muong Hoa Valley, at the lowest altitude (950-1,000m), is created by a narrow strip of land at the base o­n the east side of the mountain.
 

Geologists say the Hoang Lien Mountain Range, with Fansipan as its highest peak, did not emerge in the mountainous North West of Vietnam until the neozoic period (circ. 100 million years ago). Fansipan, a rough pronunciation of the local name “Hua Xi Pan” means “the tottery giant rock”. The French came to Vietnam and in 1905 planted a landmark telling Fansipan’s height of 3,143m and branded it “the Roof of Indochina”. Very few people climbed to the top of Fansipan at the time. Then came the long years of war and Fansipan was left deserted for hunting and savaging. The trail blazed by the French was quickly overgrown by the underbrush.
It takes six or seven days to reach the 3,143m summit, the highest peak of the Indochina Peninsula.
In 1991, Nguyen Thien Hung, an army man returned to the district town and decided to conquer Fansipan. o­nly o­n the 13th attempt did Hung, with a H’Mong boy as his guide, conquer the high peak by following the foot steps of the mountain goats. Scaling the height was meant to satisfy his eager will and aspiration to conquer the mountain without expecting that his name would be put down in the travel guidebook. After that the Sapa Tourism Agency started a new package tour there. It seemed the Fansipan Tour was meant o­nly for those who wished to test their muscular power.
The summit of Fansipan is accessible all year round, but the best time to make the ascent is from mid-October to mid-November, and again in March.

Foreigners like best to book Fansipan tours between October and December, as this period is more often than not free from the heavy rains that obstruct the jaunt. But the Vietnamese prefer their tours to the peak of the mountain from February to April, as it is not so cold then. However, the best time for the trek to the mountain is from the end of February to the start of March, when the flowers all flourish and the climbers may behold the carpets of brilliant blossoms, violets and orchids, rhododendrons and aglaias.

 

It contains countless artifacts, photographs and pictures documenting some of the less heroic activities carried out by the US army in Vietnam.
 
 Cu Chi Tunnels
Displays illustrate the killing of civilians, the spreading of toxic defoliant, the torturing of prisoners and the effects of the war in the north. Planes, tanks, bombs and helicopters are also o­n display. Outside the museum are some rooms displaying cultural products of the Vietnamese culture. Over the last 29 years, over six million visitors have entered the museum. Nearly o­ne million among them are from abroad.

 

Sapa
 
  Sapa valley Vietnam

Sapa is the most popular place to go in the Far Northwest amongst budget travelers and packages tourists alike. By using Sapa as a base you can hike off to more remote ‘traditional’ hill tribe villages and sometimes you will be offered a bed in a village for the night. Sapa was originally built as a hill station in the early part of this century and, in winter, gets bitterly cold. If you are going to be visiting Sapa in winter do not forget the winter  woollies.

Sapa is preparing itself for the continuing tourist boom considerably well. Behind Sapa, towards Phong Tho is a high pass forming part of the Hoang Lien Mountains that were known to the French as the Tonkinese Alps. This range includes Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143m, which view at dawn could be spectacular.

There is a weekend market in Sapa during which the town fills up with hilltribe people selling their wares. If you want to see these tribes as they "traditionally" live (as opposed to flogging jackets to tourists), either go for a hike or head over to Dien Bien Phu from Sapa. This stretch has the most traditional people you will see in the whole of Vietnam. It seems that most tourist groups pile into Sapa during the weekend for the market. However, travelers have reported that during the week is a much better time to catch a glimpse of the real Sapa avoiding from a big hassle of tourists.

You can hike in the surrounding area and visit a number of fairly traditional predominantly Mong hilltribe villages. Further afield is the colourful Red Zao, Dzay, Tay and Xa Pho people. A home stay in the Tay village would be unforgettable experience.

 
 
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