VIDEO: Homestay in Sapa – Hiking the Muong Hoa Valley

Nga Do
As guide leads our small group down a dirt path by the main road, I am sceptical about what awaits us on this hike in Sapa, Vietnam.

We are only half an hour from the town centre and the path seems to be leading us through a farm. But with each turn we take on our descent into the Muong Hoa Valley, the scepticism melts away into awe at the expanse of terraced fields stretching across the valley before us.

VIDEO: Homestay in Sapa – Hiking the Muong Hoa Valley
Photo by Vietnam Typical Tours
Sapa has long been a home to hill tribes, notably the Hmong, Dao, Tay, and Giay. The region remained off the radar until the French came in 1880. After the Vietnam war, and a 1979 border war with China, Sapa was opened to visitors in the 1990s and has since become a hot spot for tourism, with its terraced fields and ethnic-minority villages. Its cooler climate makes it an excellent place for hiking.

The Muong Hoa Valley stretches between the town of Sapa and Mount Fansipan – which at 3,143 metres is the highest peak in Indochina – and is the main rice farming area in the region.

VIDEO: Homestay in Sapa – Hiking the Muong Hoa Valley 1
Photo by Vietnam Typical Tours
One of the best views we have is from a concrete road above the Muong Hoa stream, which offers a panorama of the rice terraces and villages below. Throughout the hike, we remain within view of the main road, yet feel far removed from the traffic, as we are surrounded by lush greenery and terraced fields.

The Hmong women who greet us on our arrival have been waiting for us by the roadside, and follow us on the trail, which our guide assures us is a normal occurrence.

It takes us three hours to get from the main road down to a village at the base of the valley at a leisurely pace. Our companions, the smiling Hmong women, keep up with us, balancing umbrellas and carrying children and baskets of handicrafts on their backs.

The rice terraces rise most steeply at the beginning of the hike, and for the remainder of the trip are not too difficult to walk along. We wind around the hills and down into the valley. Occasionally a motorcycle zips by, but otherwise the roads are quiet.

VIDEO: Homestay in Sapa – Hiking the Muong Hoa Valley 2
Photo by Vietnam Typical Tours
Time seems to stand still in the valley, where villagers wash clothes by the river, farmers with their buffaloes tend the fields, and locals eye us curiously as they pass by on their errands.

Given the distance between Sapa and Hanoi, it is best to stay a night in Sapa or at one of the many homestays in the surrounding villages before returning to the capital.

The video below is what happens when staying in a homestay in Ta Van village of Sapa.

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