Trekking with Locals in Sapa, Vietnam

villagers working fields in sapa vietnam

I sit here totally exhausted but with a huge smile. Today I went trekking in Sapa, Vietnam with a local guide. It was a rare clear day and couldn’t of possibly had a better opportunity to venture into a world somewhat unfamiliar to myself. It was one of those cool experiences you won’t forget. There are many hidden treasures in Vietnam and this is one of them.

My buddies left today, alarm went at 7am, they shook my hand while I was in bed. Then like any true gentleman, I got out of bed and enjoyed coffee with them before they left, only proper thing to do. Drank a few more and did some web work before rolling out on yet another “solo adventure”.

local village ladies in sapa vietnam

amazing sapa vietnam

Hit up the local market, eat some pho with some village people and begin wandering while wondering what to do with myself. I decided “Phuket, I’m going to go visit that village”. About 20 steps later, I ask these local ladies what way it is, suddenly they are all following me and offering to come with me. I give this one lady a pinky swear that I’ll go with her and buy something, I had a cool $5us burning a hole in my pocket anyways. Slowly but surely the other 6 women taper off until it’s just “T” and myself.

ladies relaxing in sapa vietnam

Trekking in Sapa Vietnam with a local guide

We cruise down the road and off the beaten trail, I keep thinking “ok, she must live somewhere near here, soon”. .. How mistaken I was, turns out she lives 12KM of harsh terrain away. There are a few villages in the big valley near Sapa. One is 7km, one is 10km and one is 12km. She lives on the outskirts of the 12km one, up the steepest and most erosion ridden paths one could imagine. I carried her basket most of the way, these ladies are TOUGH. T is 50 years old and walks 12km up hill to get to Sapa and then 12km back 2-3 times a week. Sometimes she takes a taxi but ONLY if it was a good day in sales and she is insanely tired.

kids playing in stream in Sapa Vietnam

friendly guy dog in cage in sapa vietnam

We walk, we walk, we walk. I can’t describe the way there without doing it an injustice. It was truly a spectacular sight and sensational on the senses. We went through all the tourist hot spots and just kept going. By the end I was SERIOUSLY dragging my feet and sweating like a gorilla in full business attire on an local bus in Bali sans a/c during dry season. It is warm here in the sun and I had on my warmest clothes because I didn’t really pay attention to the weather when I left for breakfast.

small village near sapa vietnam

buffalo in sapa vietnam

We arrive and she actually has a pretty sick pad. I mean it’s basic but it’s quite big and she has tones of pigs, chickens and a dog. What is crazy is that 15-20 people live there, wow. She gave me the full tour and then I noticed some plants. Next thing you know I’m sitting on her front stoop high in the mountains near Sapa with massive bags at my feet. I sat there for what felt like an hour or so until my lungs officially refused to stop taking in air.

workers in fields near sapa vietnam

small school near sapa vietnam

After that we eat a nice meal with her family and drank a bunch of rice wine. At this point she asks if I want to buy anything, I hand her 100,000vdn and say “I don’t need anything, this is for the experience”.

 sapa vietnam

trekking fun near sapa vietnam

On the way down to the main road she gave me a purse or a money holder or something a woman would typically use, or a hippy actually, it would go great in a man purse or a murse or whatever the f|#$ you wanna call it. After that I caught a moto taxi up the hill for 40,000vdn.

trekking is great near sapa vietnam

inside villager house sapa vietnam

Feeling fine and fresh, I then bought a North Face jacket that is good for the arctic. Not a liner, not a fleece but both AND MORE. They wanted 900,000vdn or ~$45US, I paid $35US. Proud of copping such a good item at such a discounted price I then went for an ice coffee. I ran into a crew of local dudes who said “come sit here”. I then drank beer with them while teaching a few of the guys how to pronounce English tones. They were thrilled because speaking English here translates directly into making more coin with tourists. One of the gents was a guide. He pulls in decent coin. He gets ~$7 a day but makes the rest in tips, he was very personable and typically caters to older people aka where the cash is at.

cool guys sapa vietnam

villager house sapa vietnam

When we are done they insist on paying and I resist then just let them. I helped a few of them decipher a few tones and explain multiple meanings of different words they found confusing. What’s messed up is “No Thanks” and “I have no ….” are like almost the same thing up here, haha.

The moment they left I ran into a French friend from Halong Bay. He is going up to China a few days before me and meeting up with his parents. After that he is a free agent. I think we will team up and split rooms. He’s a solid guy and since we both have French and English we basically have a “secret language” we can talk. Having a secret language is great to discuss endless things from “is that too much, do you trust him, are we getting screwed or even wow, that chicks hot”.

I am totally exhausted, obviously as last night was another late one. I’ve been going strong since I left Hoi An and looking forward to just dying tonight. If I want to meet up for dinner, I should leave in ~5 minutes and I think I shall. He is leaving tomorrow morning and realistically if I don’t cram some cheap food into my fragile and fractured face soon, I’ll be out in an hour anyways.

What a totally random, incredibly awesome and unique experience I had to day. This is what I love most and seriously don’t bother with a guided tour when you get to Sapa. Just meet a nice lady and “go from there”, they will all offer to take you home and many sleep the night. I could have but I was like “ok, this was cool but I already have a room.” I’m glad I did it but I’m also glad to hopefully never have to take that trek again, it’s tough.

Friendly local lady in Sapa Vietnam

Considering I typically never add photos because I can’t be bothered, I’m in total shock and awe at the volume I’ve added recently. I don’t know what has become of me or who I even am anymore.

Tips hat,

P.S: I’m too lazy to match them up so I just put them in alphabetical order, don’t like it?!? Don’t come back.

Author: SHABL

Rob has been traveling the world and living abroad for over a decade. The goal was to stop having a boring life and it turned into something far greater. He's worked with national tourism boards and been mentioned in National Geographic. These days he lives abroad and loves business, technology, the tropical lifestyle, good food and travel.

4 thoughts on “Trekking with Locals in Sapa, Vietnam

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  2. Good stuff! regret skipping sapa when i was in Nam!

    I also always publish two pics max, but works great with lots of pics!


    1. I went at random and had a sick time. Met really cool people that lived there and who knows, may even go back.

      If in the area, do it.

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