A Guide To Trekking Through Sapa, Vietnam
Are you looking to trek through the rice terraces of Northern Vietnam? Search no further than Sapa. After arriving in the main village of Sapa with nothing planned aside from a burning desire to complete a multi-day walk, I learned quite a bit about the process of setting one up. In this post, I will go over how exactly I booked my three-day walk, what to bring, and what to expect.
Booking Your Trek
When you get off the bus in Sapa, prepare for a bombardment of locals. While we tried to organize our wits and put our backpacks on, four or five women surrounded us asking if we wanted to go to their villages or go shopping. Everyone else on the bus received the same treatment. We kindly declined their offers for five minutes and walked right for the Tourism Information Office.
Here we were able to discuss different types of tours (i.e. trip length, homestay vs. hotel, private vs. group tour). Eventually we opted to go on a three-day/two-night walk with a guide. We were keen to do the homestays each night. Since most people choose to go on one or two day treks, it is very common that those going for three or four days will end up having a private tour by the last day.
What To Bring
We were informed prior to our walk that we would have access to showers and clean towels every night, so we just brought enough toiletries to share for three days.
Bring WATER. Even though they provided water bottles for us at the beginning of the first day, it was not nearly sufficient for three days of walking. We packed a lot of water. Enough that our bags were extremely heavy at the beginning. However, we did not need to purchase any water bottles in the villages along the way.
Bring snacks. Yes, you are fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, when you eat these meals depends entirely on how fast you and the members of your group walk. Personally, I need almonds or trail mix within reach at all times whenever I do any type of walk.
Solid hiking boots or rubber rainboots are sufficient shoe-ware. We wore hiking boots and felt safe (for the most part), despite all of the mud. All of the women walking with us wore rainboots and appeared to be quite comfortable. I definitely do not recommend wearing regular sneakers or sandals.
I brought one solid pair of hiking socks that I wore every day. These withstood the wet mud and the elements. I also packed two or three regular pairs of socks to wear inside my muddy socks so that every day I had fresh socks on my feet, but the same pair of socks kept getting muddy on the outside.
Bring a rain jacket, sunscreen, a book, and your camera!
What To Expect On The Walk
You will find that a group of four or more women will accompany you on your walk even though you thought you only had one guide. These women will be carrying local crafts that they will take out of their packs at lunch time. They will repeatedly ask you to buy from them because they walked with you for several hours. It is up to you whether or not you want to purchase anything, but I recommend you attempt to be discreet. Any sighting of a wallet or a purchased bag or scarf on the table will signal others to come over. They never get mean, but at times the selling can come across as a bit aggressive.
Since we went during June, we felt the heat and the rain over the course of our 37km. The rice terraces’ hills are peppered with steep, slippery steps. The terrain changes drastically from dirt paths to ankle-deep mud to paved roads.
The views of the rice terraces are stupendous. They are unlike anything I have ever seen before in my life. Our trek saw a lot of rain and overcast skies, yet still I thought the views were breathtaking. The guide went at our pace and never pressured us to go faster than we wanted. Many times I took the opportunity to hang back, breathe the air, and take in the scenery behind the group (and of course snap a picture).
Every terrace seems to be different, yet all a part of the larger green painting. Setting my eyes on this magical place was a true opportunity that I will hold in my memory.