Lao Cai is a mountainous province in northwest Vietnam about eight hours away from Hanoi by train. Home to many ethnic hill tribes, this natural landscape is frequently visited by travellers looking to experience the life of the tribes in Sapa and enjoy spectacular views of waterfalls, mountainside rice terraces, and traditional villages.
From the capital of Hanoi, you can take an overnight train to Lao Cai Province which costs about VND 800,000 for a return fare with a bed in a four-person cabin. Upon arrival in Lao Cai Town, you can either hop on a bus or taxi to Sapa Town, which is located 34 kilometres (about 30 minutes away) from the train station.
Sapa offers a wide range of accommodation options, though most travellers opt for a stay with a Hmong (such as Red, Black, Green and Flower Hmong) hill tribe family, where they can enjoy a guided tour to their village and learn more about their traditions and way of life. A must visit is the Cho Tinh Market, where you can see unmarried ethnic youths dressed in colourful costumes singing and playing traditional games every Saturday evening. The majority of these dates result in marriages come springtime in Sapa, which is why the market is also called Lover’s Market.
If you’re an adventurous traveller who want to get off the tourist trail during your holiday in Vietnam, Lao Cai Province is also close to the Fansipan Mountain. Known as the tallest peak in Vietnam, it boasts breathtaking views of mountain ranges and countryside within north-western Vietnam, as well as glimpses of Yulong Mountain in China.