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Located in a remote and beautiful are dominated by Red Dao minority, Nam Cang village is part of the Nam Cang commune, Lao Cai Province. The Village is 35 km from Sapa Town and 60 km from the Lao Cai Station.There are about 267 households (1,578 persons) are living together in the region. Before the year 2000, nearly 80% of households were in hunger and poverty and over 70% of the population were illiterate, but due to a local development plan and investments in education and farming the population is now living under much better conditions. The Red Dao minority in Nam Cang nowadays living mainly on cultivation. The most famous plant of Nam Cang is the Amomum Tsaoko, one of many ingredients that made the special broth of Pho and it also used as a traditional Chinese medicine.

For more innformation about Nam Cang homestay, you can see: Indochina travel Vietnam

Lovely Homestay by the river

Lovely Homestay by the river

The drive on the way to Nam Cang is on mountain road running aside of the scenery Muong Hoa valley, with picturesque views of peaky mountains, endless rice terraces, waterfalls and Hill-tribes’ villages. Take a short walk up to the hill, the Nam Cang Riverside Homestay appears next to a fresh stream, with own suspended bridge and the jungle close by.

Children in Nam Cang Village

Children in Nam Cang Village

The Homestay is made by local ingredients: bamboo, wood, and leaves. Beds are set up nicely with high-quality linen. There are sharing bathrooms with hot water available. On the first floor is the dining station with some simple wooden tables. Meals are served by friendly staffs in Red Dao traditional dress. Foods are fresh and tasty.

Guests can go for a short trek to the village, visit some houses to see how the local people make the special papers by tree barks, a jewel workshop operated by an old man and his very simple tools. On the way, naive children are playing fun games and women wear colorful and diverse costumes are sewing or searing herbs. The Red Dao women are very skilled at the herbal bath, local medicine, and embroidery. And as far as you go, the locals always look with big eyes and followed by happy smiles. There are no hawker or vendor disturbing on the way.

Dinner made by fresh local food

Dinner made by fresh local food

Back to the homestay, guests can take a swim in the crystal stream. Local people said the stream is running through the Amomum forest, thus it has some special treatments and good for health. The homestay also offers herbal bathing service prepared meticulously of hundred types of different herbs mixing, which helps to discard stress, detox, eliminate a headache, backache, good for cold treatments, etc.

The Red bridge near Topas Ecolodge

The Red bridge near Topas Ecolodge

The whispering from the stream as a soft lullaby takes people into a beautiful sleep and waken up by the bird’s singing, enjoy a cup of coffee in the open lounge with breakfast and a book in the middle of the jungle, the homestay is an ideally place for nature lovers.

Some tips for Nam Cang

Traveling from Hanoi:

By night train from Hanoi Statin to Lao Cai. The night trains departure 21:00-22:00 from Hanoi train station to Lao Cai. Trains arrive at 5.30 at the Lao Cai train station. Guests then can drive to Nam Cang.

By private car: from Hanoi via the Hanoi- Lao Cai highway and reach to Nam Cang directly in about 6 hours.

There are some options for traveling to Nam Cang available: Day trip to Nam Cang, 2 days Sapa-Nam Cang trekking tour, 2 days Sapa- Nam Cang mountain bike tour or combine a stay in Topas Ecolodge & Nam Cang to experience both local and luxury services.

What to take along: backpack, good walking shoes, hat, sun cream, insect repellent, shorts & T-shirt for hot season and long trouser & light windbreaker jacket for the cold season. Giving money for children is not recommended but buying local souvenirs and giving sweets or chocolate are welcomed.

 

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One of my favorite quotes is that FAMILY  stands for Father And Mother, I Love You. Our parents, especially mother have raised us, taken care of us and been worried for us since the day we were born. There are thousand songs, films, poems and art works which have been written to show the respect and admiration for our beloved parents. And in this month, the fifth month of the year, we are going to celebrate the special day for the special woman, our mama. Have you had any plans for the most important and beautiful woman in your life?

Family

Family- source: internet

When I was a kid, I did not know about this day. Mother’s Day has just come to Vietnam for few years, but it has become very popular. It seems to me that everyone wants to express their love to their mothers. However, the way each person chooses is different. Some think they have to buy for their moms beautiful and expensive gifts; while some, including me, think that spending quality time with them is the most wonderful present we can give.  Doing something together, making something together or even just lying on the sand together and talking about nothing can all become sweet memories, which go with you forever. If you have not found the suitable activities to do with your mums, the list below may help.

  1. Travelling together
Recreate sweet childhood memory with mum

Recreate sweet childhood memory with mum – source: internet

If possible, why don’t you travel with your mum? It will be a lot of fun, as you and your mother will have a plenty of time staying together. Travelling to somewhere also provides a new environment, so creates a new atmosphere between you guys. Then maybe, while lying on the beach under some palm trees, you can have enough courage to tell her how sorry you were when you made a mistake few years ago and how appreciated you have been when you know you have her by your side. And maybe, under the moonlight in a strange city, your mother will be comfortable, and even brave enough to tell you that she was also very sorry to accidently hurt your feeling when you were in high school. She could tell you that she has always been proud of you; even though she might speak some harsh words. Maybe…Just give each other a chance and God knows what wonderful things might happen.

Take photo with your mum

Take photo with your mum- source: internet

  1. Inviting your mother to where you live

This choice is similar to the previous one, but it provides the more insightful view of point. This option also brings advantages to someone who has a tight working schedule and cannot have a week break to travel somewhere else.  By inviting your mother to visit you, she can have a taste of your current life. She can know the other side of you. Suddenly, she might recognize that her little Johnny has become a grownup man, who has a promising career, many wonderful friends and a healthy life style. This time, instead of your mother, who had planned and prepared for your trip, now is your time to show her how much capable and thoughtful you are.

If you are unable to take her to some tourists attractions in your city, you can book some tours for your mother, let her explore by herself. Please do not worry that you have left by her own, let’s think it different way. Why don’t you see it as an opportunity for your mother be young again, come back the time she was 20s, and enthusiastic to discover new land and make more friends. And by registering a short tour, maybe day tour, she might tell you many wonderful stories when you and you mother have dinner together. What’s a fantastic idea!

If you are currently staying and working in Indochina, which consists of  Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia ; and you are looking for some reliable travel agencies to plan some wonderful tours for your mum or both of you, maybe you can try to contact my friends. They are professional and friendly; and maybe, they can design and provide you just what you need, or maybe more than what you need. Please try by Travel Indochina Vietnam and tell me what you think!

Travel to Sapa, Vietnam

Travel to Sapa, Vietnam -source: internet

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I have arrived in Myanmar on a very auspicious date, the Burmese new year, or Thingyan, the most celebrated festival in the country. Thingyan, Myanmar Water Festival, takes place toward the end of the hot, dry season and ushers in the Myanmar New Year. This festival is also celebrated in neighboring Theravada Buddhist countries; Songkran in Thailand and Laos, Chaul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia. Taking place from April 13 to 16 each year, the Buddhist festival of Thingyan is celebrated over four to five days, culminating on the Lunar New Year Day.

Commonly referred to as the Water Festival, Maha Thingyan allows people to celebrate the Burmese New Year. Despite this, Maha Thingyan is observed in mid-April on the Gregorian calendar. While the Water Festival is a Buddhist event, the Burmese government has made it a legal public holiday. This ensures that many Burmese citizens have the opportunity to enjoy the Water Festival. Maha Thingyan is a time for happiness and friendly attitudes.

Thinngyan is the most unique and colourful with the merriest occasion in Myanmar. Standing on bamboo stages erected along the streets, people splash water on passersby. Powerful water pipes douse people driving by in jeeps and trucks. The people throwing water each other since the Myanmar believe that Thinngyan water has the power to cleanse the evil and sins of the old year. The water symbolizes the washing away of the previous year’s bad luck and sins. On New Year’s Day itself, all the water-throwing ends. This day is celebrated by releasing captive fish and birds as acts of merit, and special feasts are held for monks.

Thingyan Celebrations:
Thingyan Eve: The first Thingyan celebrations begin on the day before the Water Festival. Thingyan Eve, or A-Kyo Nei, is a time for observing Buddhist beliefs.

Fasting: Many Buddhists observe Thingyan Eve through fasting. People who decide to fast for Thingyan Eve usually eat a single basic meal prior to noon. This meal is often very bland.

Observing the Eight Precepts: During Thingyan Eve, Buddhists are expected to observe the Eight Precepts of Buddhism. These Eight Precepts are similar to the Five Precepts. While observing the Eight Precepts, Buddhists must do the following: Refrain from killing living creatures, Refrain from stealing, Refrain from sexual activity, Refrain from lying or using incorrect speech, Refrain from using alcohol or drugs, Refrain from seeking entertainment, Refrain from eating during fasting periods, Refrain from sleeping on high places

Offerings to Monks: Many people in Myanmar celebrate Thingyan Eve by visiting a Buddhist temple. When visiting these temples, it is considered proper to leave an offering of green coconuts and bananas. These kinds of offerings usually consist of a single green coconut surrounded by a circle of bananas.

Washing the Buddha: Burmese people will also wash Buddha statues with sacred water that has been scented with flower extract. When washing Buddha statues, people start at the top by drizzling water over the head.

Night Celebrations: After the religious formalities of Thingyan Eve have been observed, Burmese people begin to relax and enjoy themselves. There are many lively celebrations that occur during the night of Thingyan Eve.

Music, Song, and Dance: While the Eight Precepts prohibit Buddhists from enjoying entertainment of any kind during the daytime, people are allowed to party to their hearts’ content as soon as night arrives. In nearly every village, city, and town in Myanmar, large stages are erected for the purpose of enjoying entertainment. These stages are made of wood and elaborately decorated with papier-mache and paint. Woman will dance to classical and contemporary music while wearing flower skirts. In addition to these flower skirts, Burmese women often wear padauck blossoms in their hair. The padauck blossom is also commonly referred to as the Thingyan flower due to its rarity and use during Maha Thingyan.

Parade of Locals: After enjoying live music and dancing, people celebrating Maha Thingyan parade the streets of their town or city while enjoying alcohol and the company of their friends and family members. These parades often consist of vehicles and decorated floats. Gyat, a form of Burmese rap, is commonly performed during these parades. Gyat is fairly controversial because it is a popular way of expressing distaste for social and political issues through music.

Water Festival Celebrations
Thinngyan water festival time is the merriest time for Myanmar young and old. Almost the whole populations are in the most joyous mood; roam around the city in cars or on foot to throwing and splashing water each other. Children use water pistols to drench their friends, relatives, and anyone else in range – only monks and the elderly are safe.
The primary event of Maha Thingyan is the Water Festival. This huge event is meant to celebrate the descent of Thagyamin, a celestial Buddhist figure, to Earth. The beginning of the Water Festival, or A-Kya Nei, is marked with the firing of a water cannon into a public area. While the cannon is fired, people run out to collect the water with pots and buckets. The collected water is then poured over the ground. This is followed by a short prayer. Just like Thingyan Eve, these religious rituals are followed by festive activities. Water throwing with toy guns, balloons, and hoses takes place in many areas of Myanmar.

If you are planning to travel Myanmar, Thingyan is undoubtedly the best time of the year to visit. Besides the fun-filled activities and the festive atmosphere, you’ll be sure to meet lots of Burmese, who are always friendly saying “Mingalabar”

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Part 2: Others scams


2.1 Street Vendors of All Kind

Say it again: Overall, Travel to Vietnam is a relatively safe in however like most countries, it has its share of traveller annoyances such as books sellers, ladies with fruit baskets, shoeshine boys…

They are some vendors who sell books in boxes at cheap prices but those books are photocopies. You would not know as these “books” are wrapped up. Some of those are also of low quality – errors in pages, etc.

They are ladies with fruit baskets: Walking in the Old quarter in Hanoi, meet a lady with her fruit basket? There are other vendors who will invite you to take a photo with them. Once taken, they will demand a fee, a tip, or a purchase of their products. Want a photo? being handed the baskets for you to try putting onto your shoulder to have a photo taken? Hey, a few dollars will be asked or they going to keep yelling at you. What a nuisance! It is a set scenario made by a group of women. They are of course a fake fruit basket women. Real ones will never have that light loads. Action: Ignore, and you will be hounded until you pay. Get away from them. If they approach, you stay back. If they put the baskets on your shoulder, just say NO, detour them and keep on ( this is popular in Hanoi old quarter).

They are shoe repairer. Some guy approaches you out of nowhere and applies glue to your shoes. Next, he would take out a thread and tell you that your shoes are about to fall apart, which he can repair for $1. If you didn’t realize, that glue is actually a solvent that dissolves stitches. Should you say yes, he would then proceed. However, the trouble does not end when the job is completed, as he will be demanding $10 or more.

⇒ How to avoid:

– A firm but polite “No” to the vendors. In certain circumstances, just pretend you do not listen and walk away.

– Do not open your purse or wallet in public. If you want to buy something, keep your wallet close, know exactly how much you need so you can take it out quickly, and put your money straight away afterwards.

2.2 Overcharging and Confusing Currency

This is common around the world, but it is much more easily implemented here due to the large note denomination.

Confusing Currency: There are so many damn denominations in Vietnam, notes range from the virtually worthless 200 VND up to the 500,000VD note. There are 10 denominations in total.  At the current rate of exchange, 1 US dollar is worth 22,500VND.  So imagine your surprise when you exchange $1000. It makes you feel as though you are one of the wealthiest people on earth. As a newcomer to the country you must be very careful to check the money you are handling as some of the bill colours are quite similar.  For example, you’re in a dark club and you hand a blue note thinking you’ve paid for your 110,000VND cocktail only to be embarrassed that you’ve given the waitress a 20,000vnd bill instead of a 500,000. A very valuable tip is  try to keep your money in different places on your persons when out and about.  You make yourself an appealing target to thieves and pick pockets if you pull out a wad of cash.

Overcharging can occur in many different forms, such as over conversion of currency, giving less change by rounding up/down, not giving any change by insisting on a tip, or even changing the fare once the service is completed. After choosing goods in the shop, you need to make sure the price before taking it. There are many cases fake prices higher than the real value of goods, especially in markets, some shops. The solution for this situation is bargain lower cost many reduce a haft of a price they said. Maybe you conflict others currency between USD and “dong”, let’s check carefully. Some restaurants in Vietnam have the scam list their price doesn’t appear on the menu. If guests ask about the price, they usually avoid the answer or answer vaguely. When meals end, the staff in the restaurant will give bills for customers, the price is usually unacceptable, which is so much expensive compared to the quality of food and the market price. Tourists cannot declare to them as they ate the food already and must pay the bills to leave.

Many places also quote in USD to make overcharging easier for them – either by rounding up to USD (which is higher than the value in Vietnamese Dong) or by demanding payment in Dong while using an unacceptable exchange rate. Also beware when a vendor tells you 10, it could mean 10 USD, 10,000 Dong or even something else! Besides this, always ensure that the fee is for everyone in the group and not for each individual.

Finally, be extremely careful with the cash in your wallet, keep them out of sight from the public and from the shopkeepers.

⇒ How to avoid:

– Always exchange you money in legal money exchange rate counter rather than with individuals on the street. Be ridiculously meticulous with counting (and holding on) to currency you’re not familiar with.

– Before you enter Vietnam it’s very important to know exchange rates and a rough estimate of how much things should cost. Double check how much money you’ve had exchanged and don’t just pay for things without already knowing about how much it should be. Carrying a small calculator or using the calculator on your mobile phone is a good choice.

– Always carry a range of bills, the smaller the better, so that they have no chance to short change you.

– Always confirm what currency a price is in and pay in the currency they’ve quoted. If a price is quoted in dollars and you choose to pay in Vietnamese dong, always double check the exchange rate used to make the conversion.

– Be meticulous with counting any time money change hands and never accept torn or damaged bills which are usually difficult to spend later.

– Get familiar with Vietnamese dong. Even though all the denominations are different sizes and colors, it can still be hard to differentiate the similar ones. For instance, the 200,000 and 50,000 denominations are slightly varied shades of red.

Do not let list of scam scare you. Vietnam is an extremely safe place to travel and its people are overwhelmingly hospitable, friendly and honest. Please remember that tourist scams occurs in tourist areas, even though it seems like there are a lot to be afraid of, these will just ensure you enjoy your time in Vietnam to the fullest. So go visit, just with these tips in mind.

You can see more: How to avoid scams during your holiday in Vietnam? Part I

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After visiting all of famous destinations inside/outside Hanoi and still having some free days, what will you do? Staying at your hotel or taking a walk around Old Quarter and seeing our local life. I think it is enough for you to see. Let’s go and have unique experiences on our local daily life!

You will see these activities in Hanoi every day and I make sure that real Hanoi people will have to do one of them at least one time during their lifetime. With these below activities, you can arrange a full day trip to enjoy a local life by yourself easily.

Waking up at 5:30 am, go to a local market in early morning

Normally, Hanoi starts its new day very early at 6:00am. You can see a road with some transportation from 6:00am. But the high time of traffic jam in morning is from 7:15 am to 8:30 am. Most of foreigner cannot understand why we have to start our days earlier than some other country. There are some reasons as below:

  • Most of working places will start at 8:00 am
  • All of primary student and secondary student will be transferred to their schools by parents. Parents will bring their kids to schools safely before moving to office. Because of this culture, all of primary and secondary school will start at 7:15 am. This will help parents can bring their kids to schools safely then going to workplaces on time.

When you wake-up at 5:30 am, you can take a walk around your Hotel and find some vendor at the local market to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, flower, and raw meat with very low price. Most of these vendors go to market at the early morning is farmer who just collect their agriculture products in the very early morning and bring from their garden to big cities like Hanoi to sell. However, if they just sell till around 6:30 am then come back home in countryside area. If you go to market late, you have to buy from retailers who just go to market earlier than you and buy with a good price then trying to earn some profit from people going to market late. A smart Vietnamese housewife will go to market very early to buy fresh foods with the best price.

Flower-Market-in-the-early-morning-in-Hanoi

Flower Market in the early morning in Hanoi- source: internet

In case you do not like local market, you can do some morning exercise around Great Lake, Sowrd Lake or any Park near your hotel. However, you will meet many older walking or running slowly in the early morning. As I said, most people at working age will have to go office very early, so they did not have time to do some morning exercise because it make them be late for working. The younger usually do their work-out in the afternoon after they finish their working day.

Having a breakfast with street Vendor Food and Drink (6:30 am – 7:00am)

In Vietnam, most of hotel will offer you buffet breakfast as a complimentary service. You may enjoy both of Western foods and Vietnamese foods in your breakfast at hotel but I have to say that the taste of Vietnamese foods at hotel sometimes is not traditional and is modified to be familiar with Western dishes. Please to forget one complimentary breakfast at hotel and wake-up then find some local places to enjoy “Pho”, “Bun” or “Banh mi”. They are top three the most popular foods for breakfast in Vietnam. What are they?

Have you tried Pho like this? This is a very local way to enjoy a Pho in early morning in  Hanoi

Have you tried Pho like this? This is a very local way to enjoy a Pho in early morning in  Hanoi- source: internet

  • Pho: a type of Vietnamese soup typically made from beef stock and spices to which noodles and thinly sliced beef or chicken are added. This one is very famous in all over the world.
  • Bun: This is one is nearly the same with Pho but its fibers will be smaller than Pho. You can have use Bun with beef, chickens, snails, duck, pork. You will have more option than Pho which is used with beef and chicken only.
  • Banh mi: a Vietnamese snack consisting of a baguette (traditionally baked with both rice and wheat flour) filled with a variety of ingredients, typically including meat, pickled vegetables, and chili peppers.

Enjoy a Vietnamese black coffee and green tea after break-fast:

ice-milk-cafe

Ice mile cafe – source: internet

I guess that most of you will drink coffee right after wake up and use it during with your breakfast. However, in Vietnam, our breakfast will have a lot of smells and taste (I am talking about real local foods not about modified foods at hotels), so if you drink coffee and green tea, you can enjoy the taste of food fully. If you did not try any Vietnamese coffee before, please do not try to order a black coffee because it will be very strong and not easy for drinking at the first time. You can call a green tea or coffee with milk and ice. Most of coffee shop in Vietnam open early, so you can find some good places around Old Quarter and enjoy your cup of coffee or green tea. Vietnamese people usually have a strong coffee cup with condensed milk in the morning to start a new day.

For more detail information about Hanoi, you can access Hanoi walking tours

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I believe that travellers will read a lot (both positive things and negative things) before travelling to Vietnam. Your research beforehand will help you identify the common scams and things to take note.

Part 1: Taxi Scam

Taxi scams are prevalent in Vietnam, especially in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. It’s easy to find the stories about tourists being overcharged or extorted for sky-high fares all over the internet. In Vietnam, illegal taxi drivers have so many tricks up their sleeve, especially when it comes to foreigners being the customers. The easiest way is to use a modified meter, which runs faster than normal ones; thus allows unscrupulous taxi drivers to rapidly increase the fare. The longer the trip is, the more money they can rip off travelers. In addition, they usually take longer paths, which they call “shortcuts” but in fact are circling around to maximize the fare. Sometimes, taxi drivers can offer tourists some good places to go, just to later on ask for tips. However most of this information can easily be found through post office, maps or from the internet.

Here are the ways of sophisticated scams which taxi driver often use:

– Get money by cheating charge per kilometer

– Use the cheating tricks to increase the counted number on the taxi meter

– Do not use the taxi meter

– Driving around on the multiple routes which are not right with roadmap to increase the distance between staring point and your destination.

– Demanding more your gratuities.

In order to avoid all the troubles with the taxi scams, I would like to provide you some advice:

1/ You should get a cab of trustworthy brands, like Mai Linh (the Green Taxi), Taxi Group, or Vinasun. They are usually in a good number and the price is reasonable which based on the kilometer clock.

2/ Ask a receptionist at your hotel to help. This is highly recommended! especially you use airport taxi without from the package tour with travel agency. Transportation is also an important part of the tour company, so you do not have to worry about the quality of car, driver and over-charge.

3/ If you use one of the local taxis, get agreement on the rate before you get in by pointing at the rates sign and getting a confirming nod. If the driver tries to charge you more upon arrival, do not pay. Also, so not pay any extras for the tolls/parking – that is all included.

4/ Please make sure you have the exact name and address of the hotel you are heading for, ideally written down in Vietnamese, and make it clear all share an address. If the driver takes you somewhere else you have two options: (1) get out and walk (2) refuse to pay until they take you where you want to go.

5/ Please make sure you have enough change on you. It’s a common trick for drivers to claim they don’t have any change. If they do this, pay less rather than more (if you have it) – no change, their problem, not yours.

When you finish your trip: Tipping for taxis is not expected in Vietnam. If a driver demands a tip, do not feel obliged to give him more money unless you feel that you want to reward him for his work. If you do give the driver a tip, 5-10% of the total bill is more than enough. Some instances have been reported where the taxi driver has withheld the customer’s luggage until receiving extra payment. It may be good practice to make sure the driver opens the trunk as soon as you arrive at your destination. Or if you travel in a group, let one person remove the luggage while other pays.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are victim of a scam, there are a few things you can do:

1/ The first is try to negotiate as much as you can – whatever their demand is, start with half and be as steadfast as you can.

2/ You can also try taking a photo of the taxi driver, car number or taxi number – that tends to intimidate them.

3/ In the event that you feel physically threatened, try to bluff and say you are calling the police or pay an amount that will also you to leave the situation. However, tourism is very important to the Vietnamese economy, Vietnamese people so it is highly unlike that drivers will hurt tourists.

Have a safe trip!

 

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Sapa is a lovely hill station town in the north Vietnam. This is a famous destination to local people and to worldwide travelers due to its outstanding scenery overlooks the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, the 3,143m-tall Phang Xi Pang peak and culture of hill tribes such as the Hmong, Tay and Dao inhabited around this area.

Sapa in Vietnam

Sapa in Vietnam- source: internet

Most of people visit Sapa mainly for doing the trekking to the villages including Lao Chai, Ta Van, Cat Cat… to explore the life of hill tribe people and to watch the beautiful scenery of the nature. Some spend time to relax in this town to enjoy the fresh air, the peace of Sapa and to taste the delicious Vietnamese or European-inspired cuisine…

Whatever the purpose is, Sapa is the perfect oasis that anyone should visit once in a lifetime.

Currently there are 2 ways to reach Sapa. The first way is by train and another way is by car transfer.

During several years working as a travel consultant, I have many clients need to give advice regarding the type of transportation they should choose for their trip to Sapa. Between car transfer and train, which is better and more convenient? Hence, I hope this post would give you some ideas for choosing the best vehicle for your trip.

1/ Train to Sapa

Actually there is no railway station in Sapa. The train only transfers you to the Lao Cai station which is about 38km (24 miles) from Sapa. From here, you will take a ride to the town which lasts about 50 mins.

There are both daytime and overnight train between Hanoi and Lao Cai but most of people choose to take the night train because you can spend this time for sleeping until you arrive to Sapa instead of wasting your whole day on the train without doing anything.

Air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-con hard sleepers, hard sleepers, air-con soft seats, soft seats, hard seats are available but I only recommend you to take the air-conditioned soft sleeping carriage coz it is much more comfortable than other carriages.

Normally all of the A/c soft sleeping carriage would have 4 berths with 2 upper berths and 2 lower berths. If you would like to save the cost, you may consider sharing the room with some other people but if you love a privacy space and you don’t want to hear the snore of a stranger, you should pay for the whole 4 berths to have your own room

Among a whole series of privately-run sleeping-cars for tourists, the best ones should be Victoria Express Train, Fanxipan Express, Sapaly Express, Livitrans and King Express.

Cabin in train to Sapa

Cabin in train to Sapa- source: internet

king-express

King express

Victoria Express is currently the most expensive train to Lao Cai. The train is operated by the same branch hotel and resort Victoria Sapa and it is only for ones who stay in the resort.

The advantage of the Victoria Express is its modern and comfortable facilities enhanced in the room. Years before, Victoria Express is also the only express has dinning carriage but this service has been stopped several months ago.

The disadvantage of Victoria Express is it doesn’t provide service for people who don’t stay at the Victoria Resort and its price is twice time higher than the other trains. Also, this train doesn’t run on Saturday.

After Victoria Sapa, Fanxipan Express, King Express or Sapaly are also good options to Lao Cai.

For the best value, I always recommend my clients to travel with Fanxipan Express than with Victoria Express. The reasons are:

  • Without dining carriage, the comfort you will have in your room on the Victoria Sapa or the other trains are pretty the same. The train express operator are now improving their service day by day to make the customer satisfied and I am sure you will have the same experience even you are travel with Fanxipan or Victoria Express
  • The price of Fanxipan express is only at a half of Victoria Express. It should cost you 140USD to occupy a private room on Fanxipan but for Victoria Express, at the same price, you can only have a sharing room on the train.
  • Fanxipan Express runs daily while the Victoria doesn’t run on Saturday
  • The rest stop of Fanxipan is right opposite to the train station and there is always staff there to take you to the train.

In case Fanxipan Express is fully booked, you may consider to travel with alternative options such as King Express or Sapaly.

2/ Car transfer

In 2015, a new highway opened between Hanoi and Lao Cai shortens the drive to Sapa to 4 hours. In stead of taking the long night train in 8 hours, many people who don’t have much time in Vietnam have now chosen car transfer in order to visit within 2 days.

highway Hanoi- Lao Cai

Highway Hanoi – Lao Cai

If you could afford the price, you can use a private transfer. The price is about the same for taking the train on a private carriage otherwise, there are many bus from Sapa to Hanoi at the moment and you may consider taking the bus to save money.

Limousine Bus between Hanoi and Sapa

Limousine Bus between Hanoi and Sapa

The best ones should be the Limousine buses offer a maximum of 9 luxury soft seats to create a spacious and airy space for customers. Inside the bus, luxury interior and modern amenities such as LED TV, Wi-Fi, electricity sockets, cup holder, transport insurance is well appointed. The cost of a seat on the bus is at the same as a ticket on the night train. Resulting in short time transferring on the way, I think it’s fine for sharing the bus with other people. All the bus picks clients up at around 3.00P.m and you will return to Hanoi at around 8.—9.00P.m early enough to make sure you have a good night before the rest of your tour.

If you plan to do a trip to Sapa, I would only recommend you to use this highway to return back to Hanoi after tours in those mountainous regions and keep using the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai as the early morning arrival time is convenient to start exploring Sapa right away. However coming back to Hanoi by train made people wait at the train station of Lao Cai to arrive in Hanoi in the middle of the night with nowhere to go to rest or eat.

You can click: Vietnam cultural highlights  to get more information. Hope you have helpful information to arrange your transfer to Sapa.

 

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