When I first arrived in Sapa, I headed straight to the tour desk at my hostel to get an idea of what I could do over the coming days. A homestay trek was high on my list – it sounded perfect to me!
But then I was told the cost – it’d be just shy of 2 million VND for a single night away. That’s about $120 Aussie dollars!! That’s four times the budget I’ve set for each day! As a result, I delayed signing myself up for the trek, and I’m glad I did.
After a couple of days, I met a few other long-term backpackers who were looking for a trek on the cheaper side. They’d heard from some other travellers that the homestay options offered by the local H’Mong women were good value.
One morning, following breakfast, I ventured outside and headed straight for a large group of the ladies (you’ll find them all over the town as they’ll continually try to sell you various goods). I stated I was after a homestay trek, and requested a price for five people. After initially being told US$30, we settled on US$20 per person including all meals and the accommodation for the night.
Later that day, after a little mishap at the hostel over some confusion with payments, we began the trek.
For the two days we walked, these are the stats from my Garmin:
Walking Time: 6 hours, 37 minutes
Lowest Elevation: 979m
Highest Elevation: 1,520m
Total ascent / descent: 1,137m
Overall, the hike was well worth the money we spent (we each paid a little extra too because we thought it was so great).
The first day began with a quick drop in elevation as we wandered across the valley, through the rice fields, and past several homes and farmers. The scenery along this section is absolutely stunning and definitely worth seeing yourself (plenty of “oh wow” moments).
After a few hours walking, we made a quick stop for lunch (the most delicious food I’d eaten in a while) at one of the ladies homes. It was very interesting seeing how the local people actually lived – I was quite amused to see a small television set up on a table above a floor of dirt, and a fire going in the middle of the next room for food preparation.
Just prior to eating we had the only unfortunate part of the tour – we were hassled to purchase some items from the women… We’d initially started the trek with four women and I’d made the assumption they were all just involved in taking us on the tour. Unfortunately, only the two I’d initially spoken to were our guides, with the others tagging along to attempt to make a sale before they returned home. After ten or so minutes, these ladies disappeared and we were able to settle into enjoying our lunch.
The final section of the walk was largely along a dirt track, and didn’t last long with only about an hour or so passing before we reached Ta Van – our destination for the night.
Wandering through the town, we came to realise that this was also the destination for the majority of the other tourists heading out on a homestay from Sapa. We also found that the “homestay” appeared to be built specifically with tourists in mind – it was nothing like the home we had eaten our lunch in. Although this did mean we got to enjoy the comforts of a mattress, covered by a mosquito net, and a hot shower to clean up after the walk.
Unfortunately, day two brought the rain. With our final trek back into Sapa (this time along the main road), we became saturated. A week later and I’m still waiting for my shoes to dry! I’ve heard the views you get along this road are just as amazing as those we had on the first day of walking, so if you’re after something a little easier, consider hiring a motorbike in town – it’ll be worth it!
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