This was my fist tour in Sapa. The tour guide, Tim, said we were going to set out at 9 but I was busy in my room unpacking things so we started my half-day tour 30 minutes behind schedule. The great news was: I was the only person in the tour! ;-) This was very advantageous on my part: I could ask questions whenever I want and I could take time photographing the valley without having to bother other people.
Most tourists who come to Sapa visit Cat Cat as it is the closest village to the center of the district. This village is home to the Black Hmong, a sub-group of Miao ethnicity, who are said to have come from Southern China. It is easy to get to this place; some would even visit the village without a tour guide. You will know you are here because there is an entrance gate and the entrance fee is 40.000 VND. With that meager amount, you have the whole village to explore! I had not spent much time browsing the web about this community so I opted hiring a tour guide for directions and information.
Tim gave me 2 options: hike for a total of 7 kilometers or 5.5 kilometers. Given I am not exactly what health books label as “fit”, you can already guess what my choice was. After confirming with my guide, I grabbed my camera and old zip sweater then hopped on the motorbike. We rode down the beautiful valley for less than 10 minutes and parked the motorbike outside at one of the restaurants before we did what they call as “easy trekking”. I tell you, I have no problems walking downhill, but going uphill makes me a dog sticking out my tongue, catching my breath every now and then. Oh well, I did the epic hike anyway and hey, it wasn’t EASY at all! But that’s about to change as we moved further.
‘Whooooot! Whatta view!’ I exclaimed as I stood by a restaurant on top of the hill.
I watched the gleams of the sun over the fully-terraced rice paddies, making the mountains look like a pile of golden treasures while the shadows of other mountains made the other side look dark green. The curves, lines, and S-shaped dikes painted by the rays of the sun, and the cool wind blowing my face took my breath away. I stood up there, not moving, just feeling the sensation of nature’s elements showering me with great delight. I was confused whether I was on earth or in paradise-I was mystified! Right there and then, I declared that this was the best place in Vietnam, amongst the cities and towns, that I have ever visited. I wish I had come to this place earlier! The view had just made me a poet! And I tried hard to get back to my senses to take photos of such beauty and capture the moment! It was just priceless.
They say it is best to visit this place in August or September. That is before the harvest time but still, I was already mystified seeing this anciently engineered rice fields, which were done by hand. After looking at the panoramic view of Sapa, we trekked down passing by and admiring the Hmongs’ native houses-which were made of wood, their hand-made products, the serene waterfalls and the pride and sheer joy in the eyes of the people. The experience was magical and that has somewhat touched my soul.