Photo credit to bookingyourtravel.com.

The Vietnam Trip: Our Friendly Host in Sapa Valley

I know, I should have written and published this post ages ago but I just couldn’t find the free time and motivation to write it! And now since I’m in the mood to do it I’m just hoping I can still remember major details.


Anyway this one is from Cat’s and my escapade to Vietnam back in August, for a total of ten days. We started from Danang and wandered all the way up north to Sapa, then came back down to take a flight back to Malaysia from Hanoi.

You can read my previous posts on this long, wonderful trip below:

The Great Vietnam Trip: Hoi An Ancient Town

The Great Vietnam Trip: Where (Not) to Visit in Hue

The Great Vietnam Trip: Did Halong Bay Live Up to Expectations?

After spending two days on the cruise ship at Halong Bay, we headed back to Hanoi as Cat and I were scheduled to depart to Sapa on a sleeper bus that night. This was one of the places we anticipated the most because before we set foot there, we had heard a lot of great things about this paradise on earth.

Sapa is the border town between Vietnam and China, sitting at 4,921 feet above sea level. While still at Halong Bay, Cat and I had no idea that Sapa was going to be cold, until a Chilean couple mentioned to us about it.

In my heart I went like “Aiyah, whatever lah! Don’t think it’s gonna be that bad!” And of course, I was wrong.

I’m not sure about Cat, but my bus journey to Sapa was such a horrible one. We were supposed to take off at 7pm from the Hanoi bus station but ended up having to wait exhaustedly for hours for our bus to come.

I was already drained after our Halong Bay trip because I had woken up at 5am the same day – while everyone was still sleeping – in order to witness dawn on the upper deck of the cruise ship. Furthermore we were occupied with various activities during the daytime.

There was no explanation on what was going on, except they kept telling us to “please wait.” In the end I had to find out from a local who could speak English to tell me what was going on. Apparently the bus operator had oversold the tickets, and thus there was an under-supply of service.


After about 12 hours of bus journey, the bus stopped at Lao Cai, where some visitors were seen getting down. Cat and I had no idea if that was where we should get down also, but apparently asking other travellers did not help as they too had no clue.

After trying to communicate hard with the driver who could barely speak English, he shooed me back onto the bus and that was when I figured  out that it probably wasn’t our final destination yet.

We finally reached Sapa an hour later and by that time it was already close to 11am. If there had not been any delayed we would have reached Sapa two hours and a half earlier.

My initial bad mood started to wane after being greeted by the nice, chilly weather in Sapa. The temperature, I reckoned, was about 15°C.

Huong, the hospitable owner of Hanoi Family Homestay who made our Halong-Sapa trip possible, had arranged her people in Sapa to pick us up upon our arrival.

It was her sister, also named Huong and operating a guesthouse in Sapa, who came to fetch us with her bike. Yes, a bike, with the three of us on it! Of course, in addition to that were our luggages.

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We must be lucky or what – the day of our arrival actually coincided with Huong brother’s wedding day, and hence…

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Huong’s brother – the groom clad smartly in Western attire – was busy welcoming guests coming to his wedding lunch reception right outside the guesthouse. I buey-paisehly went up to shake hand with him like I was one of the guests.

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I experienced an immediate culture shock as it was the first time I had witnessed a Vietnamese wedding reception. I was just as stroked as most of the guest were.

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Although we did not join them, the guests were all so hospitable – they kept looking and smiling at us joyously, with one or two of them throwing us the “let’s have some beer” gesture!

Ladies and gents – this was how our guesthouse, simply called “Sa Pa Hostel”, looked like after the wedding reception was over:

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We got a corner room, which turned out to be one of the best I have stayed so far:

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Though the interior had a simple décor, it had that local vibe most visitors (erm… with great taste of course) would love.

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The room was comfortable and spacious even for two persons, and the blankets they provided were of superb quality and so thick that they were able to give us the warmth we desperately needed when the temperature dropped to less than 10°C at night.

For lunch on the day of our arrival, Huong’s two young helpers, who are siblings, served us exotic local meals.

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Huong’s helpers belong to the Hmong indigenous ethnic group. And speaking of this I must tell you that Sapa is in fact home to several ethnic minority groups in Vietnam, and that the Hmongs are actually a sub-group of the Miao ethnicity in China!

Though the Hmong siblings were young – maybe only 12 years of age, they were super hard-working and polite lor! Recalling the way they work just makes me wish I have kids like them in the future.


Anyway, this post is getting longer than I thought, so from this point onwards I shall not delve too much into unimportant details.

Cat Cat Village is a must-visit.

Though it was a hotspot most tourists would likely visit, the sceneries there were promising and one of a kind. Also there weren’t too many people thronging the village when we visited, so it was fine with me.

We decided to take a walk and find our way to the Cat Cat Village, and our decision proved worthy. On our way we passed by some houses of the locals, which had very distinct characteristics compared to houses in other parts of Vietnam.

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They totally reminded me of those ancient houses in China. But then again China is a just a river apart from Lao Cai, so that may explain why.

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Weather in Sapa was similar to Cameron’s, except much colder. At times the temperature can even drop to freezing point! Well, good thing is that you just don’t get tired so easily travelling in this kind of weather.

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At the shops area in Cat Cat Village we came across these super adorable brothers wearing like little cowboys:

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They were so sweet to us and even unreservedly posed for us to take pictures. They can totally be child celebrities okay!

Some kids, on the other hand, can be such little devils. Once they saw us they went desperately like, “Money! Money!” I didn’t know how I should feel about it. One of the things kids should worry least is money leh.

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Vietnam-Hoi-An-Hue-Hanoi-Sa-Pa

At the waterfall in Cat Cat Village:

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Some people call it the “Cat Cat Waterfall” but actually “Cat Cat” already means “Waterfall” so “Cat Cat Waterfall” would mean “Waterfall Waterfall”. LOL.

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One great thing about travelling with Cat is that she can really walk and isn’t afraid of the sun like most girls would. She also has that explorative nature in her, which is why I have always found it exciting to travel with her.

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Cat looking like a hip archaeologist cum explorer trying to pull an Indiana Jones in Sapa.

Too bad lor if our Catlady gets taken one day I will then have to resort to travelling solo liao. I don’t think I will ever find another person like her.

Read Part II of this entry here!


Other thoughts on “The Vietnam Trip: Our Friendly Host in Sapa Valley”

  1. Hi I enjoyed going through the photos of Vietnam. Is there a large Western/Christian community in Vietnam? (basing this on the wedding photo?)