A Day in Sapa, Vietnam

Life in Sapa definitely slows people down. Everything is clearer and closer to nature. I like the life here, so serene and peaceful.

School in Sapa

Villages are spread all over the mountains with Sapa being the town where hotels and tourists group.

H’mong is one of the main minority tribe that inhabits the Sapa mountains in Vietnam.


Minority tribes in Vietnam are mostly poor, very poor. Planting and harvesting padi is their main source of income and food supply.



With millions of tourists visiting Northern Vietnam every year, selling handmade souvenirs to visitors in Sapa Town become a new way of earning a living.

A metal handmade musical instrument


Some of these minority tribes can be very persistent when it comes to grabbing customers. Once eye contact is made, some of them tend to stick to you like glue. You can walk for kilometres and have them tail you like bugs.


I don’t blame them.


Well, that’s till after I met a girl named Ha.


Outlook of a six year old but with a very mature behaviour, Ha claimed she is 16 this year though her occasional outward attitude might exhibit childish features like the six year old appearance she has.

This girl changed my perception towards poverty and life contentment forever.

We took a stroll around Cat Cat Village with Ha. Fun in the mountains, is as simple as sliding down stone steps with flatten plastic bottle as your sliding board.


Kids run around the mountains bare-footed, miles away from their homes, alone.

We found this girl alone, looking at us. Looking… and looking~

There’s no age limit when it comes to playing your part to help the family earn a mouthful.

A H’mong girl not older than 6 carrying a basket climbing up the steps

Makes me wonder, how does it feel like growing up here?

Ha took this photo of Me in a H’mong Costume

We got invited to visit the humble house up in the mountain in Sin Chai Village of this lovely and surprisingly English fluent minority mountain tribe girl for an afternoon meal.

Little did we know, it involved walking several kilometres of windy roads up and down the hills,


And eventually got so tired we decided to take the motorbike taxi to reach what I thought as the entrance of her house.


The traveller in front look like dork :p

She then led us to an off-road pavement of nothing but rocks and mud down the levelled padi fields till we reached the foot where two mountains meet and a stream grace in between,

A wooden bridge that is still being constructed

Kenny taking photo in the distance

The road was rather muddy and slippery due to the rain that drizzled several minutes before.

Padi road


We crossed the bridge,


And up the most treacherous hill trekking experience I ever encountered in my lifetime; which involved wetter and slippery muddy rocks, steep ascents and descents and over streams on what looks like a slim tree trunk as a bridge.


My hand at this point (that’s before I dropped into the mud)

To think, this is what the locals here have to go through, every single day!!!

As Ha hopped from one stone to the next rock as though is it the easiest thing to do in the world, Kenny and I steadied ourselves cautiously, balancing every single step and even sitting down on rocks to level ourselves down. Which made us looked like wusses, especially when you were doing all these next to a little girl who’s as though walking on air.

One hour of mud bathing, we reached Ha’s house with minor injuries and earth-covered shoes and pants.

Ha’s house. Made of wood and no floor tiles

She then cooked lunch for us,

Ha’s kitchen

though simple, but the most heart-felt meal I had in years, compromising Vietnamese rice and some fruit-like vegetables (called “kok ka” in Vietnamese language) grown and hand-plucked from her garden.


After lunch, we spent the next hour hovering ourselves back down to the mountain and onto cement road again. Finally~

I am lying on the top bunk on the overnight train back to Hanoi as I am typing this, and even though it is just the first day of our journey in Vietnam, I felt that I have already gone a mile, or few miles come to think of it, with all the hiking and walking we did today.

I can only look forward to the rest of my 4 day trip in Vietnam, because so far, I’m loving every single minute of it.

But no matter how far I have gone in my life, I will never forget that wonderful moment I share with the sweetest local minority tribe in her mountain village – Sin Chai Village in Sapa, Vietnam.


Ha, I miss you.


46 kissed Nicole

  1. I love this post. it's your best best BEST so far.

  2. this post is very interesting as it let me know how the life of the poor in vietnam

  3. nicole,r u sure Ha is not ur daughter or ur younger sis?she looks a little like yea

  4. nicole, ha looks like she is your younger sister. you both look so much alike.

  5. yea dude......Ha looks a bit like you lor! Ha is the sweetest little thing i've seen.......... lets start a fundraiser and treat her to a trip to malaysia? shall we?

    no wonder my bunch of viet workers work so hard.....its sooo poor back there.

    nice entry nicole! well done.

  6. wow... u've found ur long lost sister in vietnam! Ha looks like a younger version of u!

  7. Super Gentleman16/9/07 8:30 PM

    wow d gal looks too young for her age lah, n a mirror image of nicole too... hahahaz... poverty, hmm a sad case in these kinda countries... jz glad dat im nt dat poor... dont think i can live a day wifout my com n broadband... hahhaz... best post ever!!

  8. Ya lah, Ha does look like you.

    Anyway, loved the pix - simply superb.

    ...and you've got nice hands.

  9. i being to hanoi 20 times, always project n business but not so deep into the mountain.
    Well done. this is wonderful...


  10. dude, for a while i thot Has was you.. and the little girl who kept looking at you is pretty adorable. Her hair looks a little highligthted.. NICE ! unlike me, id have to go to salon to do it :-D

  11. I've got to get in contact with a H'mong tribe guy but the only thing is he's in US. His family migrated to US ages ago. So i guess, if they can get out of the country, it's a good thing. H'mong are very nice bunch of decent people. You're really lucky that you've got such precious opportunity to meet them deep in the mountain. Not many out there would have the chance.

  12. let's play nintendo wii!

    don't be antisocial ay

  13. you look great even from the backview :D

  14. This entry was beautifully written. You have captured what most seasoned travel journalist would have. I sincerely hope you'll get noticed and recognise for it.

  15. Wow.. this is really great post! I never see any post about vietnam until This! I really wish to go there too... some day.. ;)

  16. Some of us from Innova JC in Singapore went to Sapa last december to refurbish a school (although it's not the same school in the first picture).

    you might be interested in our video :) http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9130609153570817567

  17. hey

    normally i would go around blogs not commenting. But this entry is an exception. Its really good. Insightful. beautifully written. And Yeah, it does make us feel like wusses when we think about the stuff we complain about.. hmmph *dontcomplainaboutexamdontcomplain*

    =) Ha is so sweet...

  18. hey babe, that cute lil gal (with the peace sign) jsut look like ya.

    and you look like a vietnamese...gotta visit that village oneday...

  19. Want to see more about Ha? View this video on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIMwR2SHB_w

  20. anon: OMG! Ha!!! It's Ha!! HAAAAAA~~~!!!!!!!

  21. hehe... hi, nicole. Hope u dun miss her too much after watching the video.

  22. Ha...
    hahaha..she's so cute.....was she haggling over some price or something? ....

  23. melt our hearts, these two angels. the heart drops a further rung when you said you missed her.

  24. what is your next destination?
    School ?or college...

  25. i am waiting for yr next exciting posting.


  26. ha looks just like you. some kind of a long lost sister. btw i enjoy this post. a very good insight of the simple life in Vietnam. hopefully this can be an eye-opener to many who read this. and the mountain area kind of reminds me of Bario (a highland in Sarawak).

  27. have you thought of a career in journalism?

  28. I love the first picture, it really looks lovely.

  29. Something is missing. Where is the luggage machine like the one found in taman negara? :P

  30. This is a great post. Nice pictures, very documentary-like.

  31. Seems you have been a lot of places that I was there as well..!

    Here's my album in Sapa and Vietnam: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bli/sets/72157601349092218/

    hv a look if u hv time..!

  32. I'm going to Vietnam end of this year, don't feel that keen to go until reading your post... makes me look forward to going there now. Hopefully it will be a different life experience for me.

  33. MangoOrange19/9/07 7:27 PM

    Thank you for posting about your trip to Vietnam. It is like taking a job back to memory lane for us as we were in Sapa in April, when Sapa was not as luxiously green as you had seen it. Feel free to check our our Sapa experience in our site: http://mangoorange.multiply.com/photos/album/39/Vietnam_April_2007
    Sapa is a paradise, isn't it? We absolutely love the people, the padi terrace, the mountains and the cold! It is a shame that you and Kenny have not stayed longer to stay in the homestay, hike a little bit more to the valley and further to see the other minority ethnic tribes. It is one of the most precious place on earth, and definitely a place where we hope and want to go back there again soon.
    Looking forward to your next traveling blog!

  34. ha lives in lao chai village(when she goes home) and is a brat,lol,although could ber cause her dad remarried and ha feels she dont fit in(pity)

  35. you take very nice pitchas :) much better than kenny :p

  36. I'm from VietNam & 've visited some of your posts. I'm very impresive /w your photo-taking skill, professional style. Glad to know u had visited my country. Have a nice day & take care :).


  37. nicole, Ha must must a good friend of your by now? Do you still think of her? What is she like? will you ever go back to see Ha again if you have the chance?


  38. Thanks for sharing your SAPA trip experience. It reminds me the life in the remote country side.

  39. uh i'm going there next month, all alone i'm so excited! thanks for your post! sere

  40. Beautiful pictures. I love it!! I was there one year ago during my trip around the world, check it www.klaasbrakke.web-log.nl


    Klaas from Holland

  41. I just finished my trip in Vietnam. I being to Sapa twice during this trip. The first time is worse because of the booking tour and the hotel. The second time I go alone and it's relax.

  42. very nice thank you , sound like a place i have to go, I am a professional photographer,
    i googled to find you , here is a new online friend of mine shots

  43. I love you will you marry me?

  44. i love the images and hearing your story. i am hmong and now it makes me want to go visit them! =) thanks for sharing!

  45. i didn't expect this place in vietnam, you may want to search for banaue rice terraces and sagada in the philippines as well. :)