On the afternoon of our arrival in Sapa, we booked a half day trek to the Muong Hoa Valley. Our guide met us at our hotel and after a short wait; the car we had booked for drive to the valley arrived.
This is one of the iconic tours of Sapa that starts even before you leave the town. Less than 1 block from our hotel we began to pass by trekkers on there way to the nearby Cat Cat Village, located only about 1 km out of Sapa Town. We stopped along the way for some scenic views of the terraced rice paddy fields taken from road overlooking the valley.
At every stop, young girls, mostly Black Hmong but with other minority groups also mixed in, join us and offered textiles their family had made for sale. When we reached the valley rim and started our walk down a dirt path to the villages more girls joined to walk with us. Some are good friends of Zou, our 16-year old Black Hmong guide and two walked with us for about an hour.
If you visit Sapa, you will find that there are lots of these girls and young women selling their products. They will approach just about every tourist they see and ask them to purchase. However, unlike some places we have been, the offer is soft sell and the vendor typically remains friendly and in good humor even when turned down. It may be off-putting to some people who visit Sapa but we find that if we keep a good attitude and treat them with respect, the conversation often times turns to things other than just trying to sell us something. It’s all part of the Sapa experience.
Once we began our walk, the first stop was at a man-powered corn grinding house where some of the local textiles are available for purchase. The walk continued down into and through the Hmong village of Lao Chai where we got close up views of some of the homes and farms.
Once we reached the floor of the valley, we stopped at one of the several restaurant/bars there. As it turned out, it was owned by a relative of Guide Zou so we got a very good seat along the riverside.
After our break, we continued our walk and stopped at a shop of a stone carver who was selling intricately carved vessels and other items. As it turns out, we had once bought a very similar piece back home as a gift and were amazed at the difference in price when buying at the source.
As we continued our walk we noticed a change in the clothing and the style of the houses. We had reached the village of Ta Van, home to members of the Dao minority group. From there it was a short walk back to a spot near a road where our car and driver were waiting to take us back to Sapa town.