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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Some questions about Sapa Tour

Sapa FAQs

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SAPA?

The best time to visit is from April to September. Although, each season has its own special qualities and surprises.

During this period the temperature is ranging from 15 – 25 Degree Celsius, it is not a raining season in Sapa so the trekking routes are dry and bear great opportunity to do longer treks and to conquer Mount Fansipan. During the winter months, the temperature is much cooler and it is advised to bring a some warm clothing (hat, sweater, wool socks) for after you days fo trekking. Also, during the winter months there are periods of light rain, which brings in the fog. This puts Sapa in the clouds and allows for some fantastic photo opportunities.

Tip: If you could not visit Sapa during a certain time, there are always some alternatives near Hanoi to visit. . The best time to visit is from April to September. Although, each season has its own special qualities and surprises.

During this period the temperature is ranging from 15 – 25 Degree Celsius, it is not a raining season in Sapa so the trekking routes are dry and bear great opportunity to do longer treks and to conquer Mount Fansipan. During the winter months, the temperature is much cooler and it is advised to bring a some warm clothing (hat, sweater, wool socks) for after you days for trekking. Also, during the winter months there are periods of light rain, which brings in the fog. This puts Sapa in the clouds and allows for some fantastic photo opportunities.

Tip: If you could not visit Sapa during a certain time, there are always some alternatives near Hanoi to visit.

IS THERE A SLEEPER TRAIN TO SAPA? WHAT IS IT LIKE?


 There is a night train to Sapa. There are a range of seating types but we only use the air-conditioned soft sleepers for our guests. There are four berths in each cabin, two lower and two upper. The beds are soft, clean and come with a blanket and pillow. The beds are sometimes a bit small for some Westerners.
Each cabin locks on the inside for security and has a fair amount of room for luggage storage under the beds and above the door.

This cabin is just a standard level and used for 4 people sharing, If you would like to splurge and go first class, the Victoria Train is available. Please ask your Origin travel consultant for more details.

The train itself does not go fast and takes about 9 hours from Hanoi to Lao Cai (about 330 km). In comparison to other trains it is not too noisy, although some people bring earplugs, especially if they are in the hard –sleeper class. Toilets are available on each coach. It is advised to bring your own toilet paper.
About half the time there is a dining car on the train. Just recently we have noticed that they have replaced the dining car with another passenger coach. Thus, it is advised to bring water, snacks, or anything else you may want to eat before boarding.

Note: Please be aware that Vietnamese train is just standard, it can never be compared with Western trains

BEFORE OUR NIGHT TRAIN TO SAPA, DO YOU HAVE A PLACE WHERE WE CAN LEAVE LUGGAGE?

It is recommended that you extend your stay / check-out time at the hotel that you are staying at so that you can get a little added rest, shower, and change of clothes before boarding the train. Then, you can also leave your bags there during the day.


Tip: If you are to Sapa for trekking, we suggest you travel light for an enjoyable time.

ANY OTHER MEANS OF TRAVEL TO SAPA EXCEPT TRAIN?

The best mean of transport to Lao Cai and Sapa is still the train, however, car or van can be also good to reach to this beautiful mountain town.

It will take about 10 hours (not including possible traffic jams) in a distance of 400 km from Hanoi. Although, there is not much of sightseeing we can make en route.

We strongly recommend to travel by train, but for some reasons, you would wish to travel there by car, please check with one of our travel consultants to see the road conditions since it sometimes has construction and will make your journey to Sapa even longer than 10 hours.

Road travel should be at day time.

Tip: We hardly see people traveling by road to Sapa, night train simply the best option so far.

IS THERE A DAY TRAIN TO LAO CAI (SAPA)?

There is one train that journey from Hanoi to Lao Cai and vise-verse in the day, but there is no sleeper train during the day. It only has seats and no air-conditioning. We recommend you not take this train,

Tip: We highly recommend taking the night train to save you time, visit more places in Sapa..

WHAT TYPES OF ACTIVITIES SHOULD WE EXPECT TO BE PARTICIPATING IN AT THE HOME-STAY?

There is a wide range of activities that we have participated in. Some of our guests have gone out in the fields and actually got into the mud and planted rice. Others, have befriended one of the young women and was taken to her house to have tea. Sometimes the guest are up for some more trekking and we go for a short walk in the mountains. And, others prefer to just sit and relax. Helping out with the cooking and some of the chores is encouraged so that you can get a better understanding of local life.

The people at the home stay are quite shy. Especially with their English. They can speak a little English and actually it is enough to have a conversation. Although, they do need some encouragement. We ask you to be active in communicating with the family, ask in them questions about their lives. They are always happy to answer, often showing you and getting you involved in order for you to better understand.

WHAT KIND OF SHOES SHOULD WE USE FOR TREKKING IN SAPA?

There are different types of trekking in Sapa and its surrounding mountains, so when booking Sapa tours or Vietnam tours including Sapa, you will need to check with our travel consultants to see which kind of shoes will work best.

For the light or easy trek, we recommend using good sandals or walking shoes, but for intermediate and hard trekking trips, we have to use really good shoes or sport shoes which must have really strong grips for hiking up and down. Many of our past clients use their expert hiking boots which often become very muddy in rainy weather. The best footwear during periods of rain are definitely the local rubber boots bought at the local market for about 120.000 VND or $8 USD. They grip in mud and do not cause blisters. Although, these boots do not breath at all.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE: EASY TREKKING, INTERMEDIATE & HARD TREKKING?

(How hard is the trek with your Sapa tours? About the condition of the Sapa trails. Are they dry or wet, steep or flat?)

Trekking: Is a category of adventure travel, typically involving visits to remote areas, with overnight lodging in tents or other minimal accommodation. It is less strenuous than hiking but more strenuous then walking.
In comparison to trekking in Nepal or India, the trekking in Sapa is easy. But, because of the rapid weather changes, and the severe ups and downs on some of the trails; we have to classify the trekking as moderate. Please be aware of the time it takes to reach each destination so that you can confirm that it will suit your abilities.

Easy trekking: Harder than walking, trekking trail is not steep, has some ups and downs, often in a short time.

Moderate trekking: Trekking trail has ups and downs, but not so steep. Trail will become more difficult in poor weather.

Intermediate to Hard trekking: Trekking route has a steep incline and often is off road in remote areas, very difficult during periods of rain.

Every situation depends on weather, especially in Sapa.



HOW FAR IS THAT FROM LAO CAI TO SAPA AND MEAN OF TRANSPORT?

It is 38 km from Lao Cai to Sapa, the road is constantly zigzag with steep up hills. As we approach Will gain about 1000m in elevation and reach Sapa town at 1600m. The views are spectacular.

It is comfortable by AC can or car, our driver will bring you to Sapa in about one hour.

Your guide will be waiting outside the train station pick you up. Look for the Origin Travel sign with your name on it.

Tip: Please get the guide’s name & his cell phone number from our tour operators in Hanoi, if not you can always call your travel operators to get this once you are in Lao Cai.


HOW DO I PREPARE BEFORE GOING TO THE HOME-STAY?

First off, you should go for a few walks before going trekking as it will help you get your legs back.
For the home stay, there is not much preparation. Making sure that you have packed everything you need to make your stay more confortamble is most important. Bring a small bag with the clothes change of clothes. You should bring something warm, as the nights will cool off, sometimes dropping as mush as ten degrees. Other things you might want to bring with you are a mirror, toilet paper, your favorite tea or snack, flashlight, and a book.

Further preparations to make your stay even more special would include learning a short song to sing after dinner. It is a cultural tradition to sing after dinner, and if you start off by saying you would like to sing a song, then all the better. You can bring gifts for the home stay owner, things like pens, pencils, and books. Other great things to bring with you to the home stay, and all over Asia, are pictures of your home, you and your family. The pictures always become a great conversation piece.

Are we sleeping with the family at the village in the same house? Do we eat with the locals at the home-stay?
Yes we will stay with the family in the same house providing we are a group of less less than 4. If we are more than four we will divide into smaller groups and stay with multiple neighboring families with homestays.
We will normally enjoy dinner and sleep with one family, but sometimes, the neighbors want to share the tourism benefits equally, then cooking and eating is at one house but sleeping is at another.

HOW DOES SLEEPING WORK IN THE HOME-STAYS?

Most of the family goes to bed early although one will stay up until everyone goes to bed. Having your flashlight close to your bed is a good a idea as the light switches are sometimes in odd place, Expect roosters to begin the day at about five o’clcok in the morning. By 5:30 a fire has already been lit to boil water.

WHAT KIND OF FOOD WILL WE EAT AT THE HOMESTAY?

There will be a range of food at the homestay. For dinner there will be a mix of traditional Dzao and Vietnamese. We bring a lot of food in from Sapa to share with the family and everyone gets a chance to share in the cooking. For breakfast, pancakes and bananas have become very poplular amongst the trekkers and homestays, although if you wish to have a traditional Dzao breakfast that can be arranged. It is ususlaly rice, and an egg and some vegetables