The magical rolling green mountains of Sapa are a great way to explore rural Vietnam, whilst also immersing yourself within the traditional culture of the area.
The best way to fully appreciate the history, landscape and ethnic groups of this area is by hiring a guide for your trek. We booked a trek through Buffalo Tours which included a Vietnamese guide (who spoke fluent English), a homestay with a local family and an introduction to a traditional art from the region.
Over the course of 2 days we trekked around 13 km, it was pretty easy going as we had the perfect hiking temperature.
Our guide was a fountain of knowledge in helping us to understand the local culture and landscape. He pointed out local plants, explaining their different uses, like how bamboo is planted in the mountains to prevent landslides, and how indigo is used to create a dye with beeswax.
Due to the climate rice is only planted once a year in northern Vietnam. As we were there in March we were able to see the fields pre-production. The landscape was so dramatic and I would love to come back in the summer once the rice is planted.
A big part of Buffalo Tours ethics is to promote sustainable tourism. As part of our trek we stopped in a workshop to learn about (and try out!) the local art of Batik.
Batik is where you paint beeswax onto fabric. You then dye the material and melt off the wax to leave just a white outline of where you painted.
Unfortunately this art form is dying out, so excursions like this are important in keeping it alive.
The best way to fully experience and appreciate a culture is to be amongst the people. This might be difficult to do for a long period of time but the homestay’s in Sapa help you to get a taste of what life is like in the rural mountains of Vietnam.
I stayed at one of Buffalo Tours homestay’s with Ma (AKA Mrs Moo), her husband and three children. Ma showed me all the traditional H’Mong clothes and accessories she has made, and let me try them on!
It was amazing to learn about her life in the mountains, and to see the difference in our lives despite our similar age. She is unable to read or write but this hasn’t stopped her from learning to speak fluent English as well as setting up her own business! Her hard work means that she is able to send her children off to school, a luxury that not all families have.
We had such a peaceful stay in the middle of the mountains and with so much good food!
If you are looking for the opportunity to dive into Vietnamese culture, especially ethnic minorities, then a trek and homestay in the Sapa is a must! Booking through Buffalo Tours was a great way to ensure the perfect itinerary as well as an authentic experience with a real local H’Mong family.
I also booked a sustainable tour or the Mekong through Buffalo tours, find out more here!