Sa Pa is a small town in Vietnam located in the Lào Cai Province about 350 km northwest of Hanoi, close to the Chinese border. This rural town is populated by a diverse range of ethnic minorities and is surrounded by walls of mountain ranges, rice terraces and many ancient engravings such as the ones found at ‘The Area of Old Carved Stone’ a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sa Pa is also home to Phan Si Păng, the highest peak in Indochina which makes the region one of the most popular areas for trekking and hiking in Vietnam. The rich cultures of the many hill tribes combined with the breathtaking scenery make Sa Pa a unique and must-see location.
Lomographer Pearl Aton, a.k.a. pearlaton had the pleasure of visiting Sa Pa during her 19-day trip to Vietnam and it quickly became one of her favorite destinations. In this installment of Around the World in Analogue Pearl shares the sights to behold in Sa Pa through these impressive shots taken on her film camera.
If you Google places to go in Northern Vietnam, Sa Pa isn't exactly on a lot of blog articles. Most people would put Ha Long Bay on top of their list. Although both places have their own distinct charm and beauty, Sa Pa won me over.
During my 19-day solo trip to Vietnam last year, I made sure to spend 3 days and 2 nights in the valley. I went there in September and most of the blogs I read said that the weather during that month is usually terrible. However, during my stay, it didn't rain cats and dogs as I've expected. On the second day of my stay in Sa Pa, my tour group's local Hmong guide lead us to rice terraces. I stopped to look around and there were several more rice terraces around me. This was the most scenic route going to Ta Phin Village, the first village on our trek itinerary that day.
Some of my favorite moments in my 19-day solo trip in Vietnam was good conversations I had with locals and travelers alike. It's hard to choose! But there's one conversation that stands out. During the trek to the last village (Lao Chai - where most of the Hmong people stay), the guide and I talked about some of her village's culture and tradition. She said that girls as young as 15 years old get married, have kids, and work. Their husbands stay at home and take care of their children. But she didn't want to get married early like her friends. She wants to study so she can become a teacher, work hard and travel the world one day. She works as a local guide so she can save money for her education.
The food's exquisite. Of course, Pho will always be on the list. While in Sa Pa, I had Pho Ga which is Chicken Pho. Locals also have Com Lam which is bamboo sticky rice. I had it with some grilled pork skewers.
The light was beautiful, especially in the afternoon. The locals were very kind and friendly. They took me and my tour group to waterfalls and quaint villages. We also walked through rice terraces — an experience I wouldn't trade for any other.
There are so many beautiful spots that you'll pass by when you join treks. Make sure to pause for a moment, look around, take a photo or two and take all the beauty in. Some locals don't really like being photographed so it's best to ask for permission first. If you do take a photo of a local, don't just snap and then walk away. Try to converse with them.
If my memory begins to fail when I grow old, I hope I retain the ones I made in Vietnam, especially in Sa Pa.
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