At the height of 1,600m above sea level, the average temperature of the area is 15-18°C. It is cool in summer and cold in winter.
Visitor to Sapa in summer can feel the climate of four seasons in one day. In the morning and afternoon, it is cool like the weather of spring and autumn. At noon, it is as sunny and cloudless as the weather of summer. And it is cold in the evening. With no advance warning of a thunderstorm short and heavy rains may come at noon on any summer day. Subsequently, a rainbow appears, transForming Sapa into a magic land, which for years has been a constant source of poetic inspiration, lights up the whole region.
The best time to witness the scenic beauty of Sapa is in April and May. Before that period, the weather might be cold and foggy; after that period is the rainy season. In April and May, Sapa is blooming with flowers and green pastures. The clouds that settle in the valley in early morning quickly disappear into thin air.
Sapa has many natural sites such as Ham Rong Mountain, Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest and Ta Phin Cave.Sapa is also the starting point for many climbers and scientists who want to reach the top of Fansipan Mountain, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143m. Hoang Lien Mountain Range is also called the Alps of the North Sea area since Fansipan Mountain is not only the highest peak in Vietnam, but also in the Indochina Peninsula. The pyramid-shaped mountain is covered with clouds all year round and temperatures often drop below zero, especially at high elevations.
The first thing you notice when approaching the resort town are some detached wooden mansions and villas perched on a hill top or hillside, behind thick pine forests and almost invisible on this foggy morning. Old and new villas with red roofs now appear and now disappear in the green rows of pomu trees, bringing the town the beauty of European towns.
Fresh and cool air in Sapa is an idea climate condition for growing temperate vegetables such as cabbage, chayote, precious medicinal herbs, and fruit trees such as plum, pear…ect.
Sapa is home to various families of flowers of captivating colors, which can be found nowhere else in the country. When Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival, comes, the whole township of Sapa is filled with the pink colour of peach blossom brought from the vast forests of peach just outside the town. Sapa is regarded as the kingdom of orchids. Here, orchid lovers are even amazed by the choice, when trekking in the forest filled with several hundred kinds of orchids of brilliant colours and fantastic shapes, such as Orchid Princess, Orchid of My Fair Lady's Shoe. Some orchids are named after lovely singing birds such as the canary, salangane's nest, and more.
Sapa is most beautiful in spring. Apricot, plum and cherry flowers are splendidly beautiful. Markets are crowded and merry, and are especially attractive to visitors. Minority groups come here to exchange and trade goods and products. Market sessions are also a chance for locals to promenade and young men and women in colorful costumes to meet, date or seek sweethearts. Visitors to Sapa will have opportunities to discover the unique customs of the local residents.
Black H'mong woman with her pig Red Dzao Women in Sapa
Mount Phan Si Pan, Sapa and the Smiling Hmong
The journey is shaping up to be quite an adventure: cows on the road, a moped rider asleep at the wheel, wood for the hut, blasting through to progress, a man as busy as a bee, a room with a view, and a market of love.
The hourly experiences on the long route between Mai Chau and Sapa could fill the “Specials” section of an adventure travel catalog. Cows on the road are the smallest problem – we’re familiar with them from rural holidays. Blasting works are also less of a thrill when they’re far away – if only the road weren’t closed for hours afterwards. But things get exciting when enormous, swaying, and wobbling towers of wood appear and block the route. And it’s spooky to see tiny feet and skinny legs poking out from under the mountainous stacks. A 180-degree turn solves the puzzle, revealing a face behind the tottering towers – and a pretty one at that, covered with a friendly, beaming smile. The enforced halt to pose for photographs makes the burden on the Hmong woman’s back all the heavier – but her smile makes light of their heavy load.
At any rate, this road is heading into thick fog. Instead of yellow dust, damp mist now creeps through the cracks of the jeep body, and the temperature drops. High time for hot tea with honey. It’s child’s play to prepare it at home – but here, in the mountains of North Vietnam? Water is quickly boiled, green tea sprinkled slowly into the pot – a dream come true – and soon we’re drinking wonderfully hot, delicious tea with honey.
Another 130 kilometers (78 miles) to go until Son La. Rooms have been reserved in the Trade union Hotel. The hotel proves to be charming, and the receptionists are enchanting. Next morning at Son La’s wonderful market, language skills are superfluous and the Esperanto of hands and feets is all that’s needed – just as it is all over the world. Old Son La was almost completely destroyed in the last war in massive bombing raids by the US army. In the previous war, from 1908, the French had established a jail for political prisoners. Fortunately, the thick walls studded with iron fetters are silent about the terrible deeds perpetrated here – a foreshadowing of Dien Bien Phu, the next stop on our journey to Sapa.
Here, then, at the edge of the modern city of Dien Bien Phu, is the hill on which the colonial rule of the French came to its final and bloody end. The museum in Dien Bien Phu provides detailed factual inFormation on the progress of the decisive battle and its background. The memorial monuments and cemeteries for the fallen of the French and Vietnamese armies chart what remained.
The onward journey offers plenty of time for reflection; we have around 300 kilometers (180 miles) to go before the next stop in Lai Chau, around eight hours’ drive through magnificent scenery on twisting roads bearing the number 12. Pleasure and reflection is easier said than done; the hairpin bends shake us into alertness, and the never-ending stream of photo opportunities entices us to stop again and again.
Our alarm call the next morning is perFormed by the Minsk riders, starting up their silencer-free bikes at 5.30. But that doesn’t bother anyone in Vietnam – 180 kilometers (108 miles) to go before we see Sapa. The countryside grows more austere, the mountains become higher. Many find this section the most beautiful of the whole route. Tram Ton pass, “the gateway to heaven”, at 1,900 meters (6,230 feet) is a unique sight, and all 3,140 meters (10,300 feet) of Mount Phan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest mountain, seem close enough to touch. Bold souls with the courage to climb its summit, three to five days to spare, and a good guide at hand are richly rewarded. The view to the north extends as far as the mountains of China.
On the other side of the pass the weather changes suddenly and visibility fall to zero in the thick pea-soupier fog. The only evidence that our vehicle is still following the road is the mopeds speeding past, their riders swathed in brightly colored plastic capes. How they see where they’re going is a mystery to us. Finally, we see the signpost announcing Sapa, and soon after that the beautiful Victoria Hotel. A well-heated room with a view over the Former health resort fot the French locals is the ideal way to relax before tackling the highlight of the long journey. On the other side of the Red River, near the Chinese border, are two weekly markets that are outstanding in their attractiveness and unspoilt tradition: the “love market” in Can Cau and the ethnic market at Bac Ha. The country market of Can Cau, held on Saturdays, is a meeting point for the inhabitants of the surrounding mountain villages, who gather to haggle over prices. But the young girls who also attend have something else in mind – the boys – and if the girls find one of them to be cute, he’ll need to have that made clear to him somehow. The girls done their most beautiful clothes, their most costly jewelry, and transForm themselves into works of art that may be admired from a safe distance, while the boys lounge around on their mopeds and try to look cool. At first glance, the difference to mating rituals of Western teenagers is minimal, but that’s what makes this affectionate observation – accompanied by a silent sigh – into a highly personal experience. We’ve probably all been there – and it’s the same all over the world.
The ethnic market in Bac Ha takes place on Sundays, when the little village becomes the hub of the whole region. Everything that might be needed by Vietnamese mountain dwellers is offered here: robes, nails, tools, tobacco and spices, edible creepy-crawlies-spiders-and, fortunately, fruit, too. The market is awash with a sea of bright colors, the traditional costumes of the Black Hmong with their flowers and shining silver jewelry, and the Red Dao with their red, yellow, and green headgear, varied by check prints in loud colorways. Many a fashion designer has drawn inspiration from these costumes, transporting the color sense of the North Vietnamese mountain dwellers onto the catwalks of international fashion houses.
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