Sapa Rice Terraces Sapa Rice Terraces

Hill Tribes and Rice Terraces in Sapa

Sapa is a charming and incredibly picturesque mountain town, placed among top tourist attractions in Vietnam. Surrounded by picturesque wild mountains and lush green forests, Sapa is famous for its colorful hill tribes and rice terraces. Some of them are 2000 years old and were carved into the mountains by local inhabitants to grow rice, a crop that was and still is precious for upland people.
Sapa had its original name Sa Pa, which means sand ground.
Sapa is perched on the eastern slopes of the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, also known as the Tonkinese Alps, near the China’s border in North West of Vietnam. The town is home to more than 30 Vietnamese hill ethnic minorities and also home to Indochina’s highest peak, the 3.143 meters Mount Fansipan. Sapa is 1600 metres above sea level, so can get quite cold and foggy in winter, and can even be cool when the rest of the country is sweltering in summer.
Archaeologists have proven that this area has been inhabited since ancient times by tribes. Some of them have survived until today, and live in the villages around Sapa. Most prevalent are members of Black H’mong and Red Dzao. In past they lived in considerable poverty, practising shifting cultivation on the slopes of rocky mountains. Faith and traditions of these tribes are so strong that even today you can see them wearing traditional costumes. Red Dzao are easily identified by the coin-dangling red headdresses and intricately embroidered waistcoats worn by the women; Black H’mong are distinguished by their somewhat less elaborately embroidered royal blue attire.
Jesuit priests first arrived here in 1918 and sent word of the idyllic views and pleasant climate back to Hanoi. By 1922, Sapa town was established by French colonists as a hill station to offer respite from the heat and humidity of Hanoi. In this scenic setting, French built villas, hotels, and tennis courts, transforming the place into a summer retreat. After 70 years of revolution and war, Sapa returned to its roots, but in less than ten years the small market town boomed into a major draw for travelers. Today the area is open for tourism and many people come here to sample the trekking opportunities and at the same time discover a world which has changed little over the centuries. There are over 80 hostels and hotels of which there are 3-4 stars hotels too.

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As has been mentioned above, the main attraction of Sapa are the rice terraces. Thanks to the steep feature, fertile soil created by weathered granite rock and mountain cliffs; local ethnic minority people grow rice and establish rice terraces. Around mountains, farmers work hard to turn rocky land into beautiful fields, one after another, from the foot to nearly top of mountains. Generations to generations of these people have made amazing rice terraces as we see today. The rice terraces in Sapa are seen from afar, and look like a picture of nature with heart- catching beauty. Travelers are just blinded by the beautiful panorama. This spectacular picture has its color changed seasonally, exhibiting its most alluring charm when the new crop begins; green rice grows and the field is lush with ripening rice. It is this feature that turns rice terraces in Sapa into a paradise for photographers and nature lovers. Nevertheless, the best times of the year to visit Sapa are in the spring and fall. Summers tend to be rainy and muddy, while winter temperatures can drop to the freezing mark.
Spectacular views of the area can be had from the nearby hills. One of these has been built up into a tourist attraction. The Ham Rong Resort is located only a short walk south from the central square and then up some stairs. There tourists will find various gardens, ethnic minority dance performance areas, viewpoints, and restaurants.
Other interesting attractions in Sapa are the Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest,Ta Phin Cave and Love Market. Love Market is a sort of a cross between a peacock mating ritual, a Middle Eastern arms bazaar, an Amish square dance, a bad Pavarotti concert and Bangkok's Patpong. On Saturday nights, tribal teenagers from villages near and far trek into town to meet, sing, impress, entertain each other and find a mate. It's all very coy, but unlike many of the more remote love markets in the region, it has become very commercial in recent years.
The best way to go to Sapa from Hanoi is to take the trains. Tourists usualy travel from Hanoi to Lao Cai by overnight trains – the best option to save two nights of accommodation. Sapa is just 35 km from Lao Cai; about 50 minutes by shuttle buses or private car.
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