Driving around the Sapa Valley slopes at the back of a motorcycle is exhilarating as we cut through the cool mountain air. Aside from that, the view of the cloud shrouded mountains and the impressive terraces of the valley is astounding. We were headed to one of the first ethnic hill side villages in the valley, the Cat Cat Village.
While I found the main town of Sapa a bit sophisticated, it is venturing beyond its borders that would yield rewards. One major activity here is visiting several villages. One might do a trek by foot if they have a luxury of time or hire several motos in town. Just make sure you are clear on the rates on where you are going. If it’s only on the nearby villages rates could go as 5 USD for a village visit and may go up to 9 USD for two villages with one more distant.
Aside from the moto fees you hire to drive you to the village there are also fees when entering villages. In Cat Cat, there’s a 10,000 VND entrance fee and later on we visited Ta Van with an entrance fee of 15,000 VND. There are check points along the road to check for your tickets.
Just 2km from the Sapa town is Cat Cat Village. This age old Hmong village is easy to reach and is more popular to visitors. There’s a nice paved trail going through the village. There were interesting tattered roof houses there. Not much local villagers there at that time aside from a few vendors and kids playing.
We continued on toward a descending paved path. As we go in deeper into the woods, we could hear the rush of water going stronger. Soon we reached the Cat Cat Falls. There’s a view deck there just across the bridge where a river with a very strong current flows. The falls looks nice but the lighting conditions at that time wasn’t ideal.
Before we headed back I had a few snacks from a vendor there. I ate some roasted corn, some barbecue and bamboo cooked rice. Heading back means climbing the stairs we went down passing by silk and trinket shops sold by the local Hmongs. Once we got up we rode to the next farther village of Ta Van.
Ta Van is another village 5 hours away by hike from Sapa Town but can also be reached by motorcycle. Here, we got a closer inspection of the rice terraces. There are also home stay houses there which you could sleep overnight for 8-10 USD. If you are looking for a basic back to basics, village life experience, this would be an interesting accommodation option.
Before we headed back again, pangs of hunger suddenly stroked so we sampled their local dish there of Duckling Egg and Spinach soup to relieve our stomachs. Very good, it taste different but good nonetheless. Before the last stretch of the afternoon ended, we were back in Sapa Town.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.