Sapa town is buckling under the weight of rapid and poorly managed tourism development. Happily, the surrounding countryside is holding up far better. Get out of the town and the Sapa experience is a delight. The further you go the better.
Check out the video of our 3 hour walk around Sin Chai village during our recent visit.
Sin Chai's a Hmong village around 7kms from Sapa town. It's one of a handful of local villages that have been in travel itineraries for more than two decades.
So I wondered how the place would look? I was pleasantly surprised.
We found a village that was friendlier and healthier than it was twenty years ago. Back then there were no schools and few health clinics in these villages. Children were visibly sick.
Sin Chai didn't feel overrun by tourists either. In fact we only saw two other tourists. And while the dreaded Fansipan cable car loomed in the distance, the surrounding countryside was as stunning as ever.
The Fansipan cable car has changed the feel of Sapa forever. And this is only the beginning. But for now at least, the joys of village walks in the surrounding countryside, remain.
In addition to Sin Chai, other easy recommended walks around Sapa include Y Linh Ho, Ta Van and Ta Phin. Ta Phin may be the most popular with tourists and can feel overrun. The countryside around Ta Phin is beautiful and there are walks beyond Ta Phin too.
You'll probably need a xe om (motorcycle taxi) or metered taxi at least one way - usually back to Sapa, unless you're extremely energetic.
Go early in the morning or late in the afternoon for the nicest light and fewer tourists.