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Sapa (Villages: catcat, Ham Rong, lao chai, ta van, su pan, Muong Hum market…)

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Consisting of several stones with ancient images carved on them, this is a famous sight located in Muong Hoa valley, Lao Cai. The Ancient Stone Field reaches an area of 8 sq. km; it lies between the staircase-like rice fields.

Archeological values

Researches have been done there for the first time in 1925 on about 200 pieces of stone of different sizes and shapes. Nowadays, the biggest stone that you can find there is probably Hon Bo (Bo means father in Vietnamese), which has the length of 15m (45ft) and the height of 6m (18ft). Besides the unexplainable organization of these stones, the images drawn on them also become the subject of several researches. They include different images of people, flowers, stilt houses, and undecipherable letter-like symbols. On this field, there are also stones dedicated to wives and husbands, and the stones on which spells were written. According to the historians, the spells might have targeted at the huge tigers which threatened the villages. On the other hand, the Wife-Husband stones referred to the pure and unbreakable love of a couple who overcame the obstacles to live together. When they died, they turned into two stones turning to each other.

The Ancient Stone Field has been proved by scientists to have existed for many centuries; it is a heritage of the ancient Vietnamese people. Nowadays, it has become popular to not only the science community but also tourists from everywhere in the world.




Terraced rice paddies; lively town centre; ethnic markets; village communities; community tourism projects; traditional homestays; trekking; local food; cooler weather.


Sapa Vignette:


Sapa itself is a busy little town; a crossroad of cultures converging then venturing off into the inspirational, misty mountain landscape. The area offers superb trekking to nearby hill tribe villages tucked within the terraced rice paddies. Footprint is proud to support Ta Phin village’s community based tourism efforts with our tours.




Despite its commercialization during the last decade, Sapa is still a must-see on any northern Vietnam itinerary. On a clear day you will treated to views of steeply terraced rice fields, towering verdant ridgelines, ethnic minority villages, raging rivers and astounding waterfalls.


Nestled high in the Tonkinese Alps near the Chinese border, Sapa was built as a French hill station to serve as a respite from stifling Hanoi summers. These days, weekends are still the biggest draw in this bustling small town. Visitors from the capital flock to Sapa for a glimpse of the famed Saturday night “Love Market”, treks to local hill tribe villages, or an ascent of Vietnam’s highest peak, Mount Fanxipan.


Some eight ethnic groups inhabit Lao Cai province: Hmong, Dao, White Thai, Giay, Tay, Muong, Hao and Xa Pho. The most prominent in town are the Red Dao, easily identified by the coin-dangling red headdresses and intricately embroidered waistcoats worn by the women; and the Black Hmong, distinguished by their somewhat less elaborately embroidered royal blue attire. Many of the locals that frequent Sapa – especially the women and children – can speak surprisingly good English and are incredibly friendly. One to four-day treks are offered by several outfitters. Guests usaully sleep in the traditiaonal village homestays.


Topping out at 3,143 meters, Fansipan has become the most challenging hike / trek in Vietnam. There are a variety of options and routes that will see one to the summit.


A number of small hotels ranging from 2 to 5 star ranking are available for the tourist. In recent years the town has seen an influz of investment and a number of quaint coffee shops and restaurants serving local and international food are available.


The growning tourism industry has played a contentious role in the region. Regional government, as well as international NGOs and educational institutions have made posititive efforts in building the capacities of the locals. The results have been mixed and a number of challenges continue to plague the local communities, however more and more the benefits of tourism are being shared.


The best times of the year to visit Sapa are in the spring and fall. Early summer tends to be rainy and muddy, while winter temperatures can drop to the freezing mark (Sapa saw snow in years 2000 and 2010!). Weather really does make a difference because the spectacular scenery is all but blotted out when there is cloud cover and rain. However, the infamous Sapa mist does make for some incredible photographs.


Sapa- a great place for trekking tours

Sapa is situated in the country’s northwest at an altitude of 1,600 meters. In the early 20th century the French took advantage of Sapa’s cool climate, developing it into a summer retreat from the heat and humidity of Hanoi.

Today, Sapa town still retains its European feel, largely due to the French architecture and gardens and today is a popular destination due to its beautiful scenery and colorful ethnic people. Sapa town is reached via a winding 40km road from the town of Lao Cai.

The drive provides a taste of what is to come as the road winds its way up through lush rice-terraced valleys and breath-taking scenery passing several different minority villages along the way. The valleys surrounding Sapa are home to several of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups, each with their own distinctive dress, customs and dialects.

These tribes can all be seen at the weekend market in Sapa town to trade with one another. Sapa has also become a destination for travelers seeking adventure for Vietnam travel. It is a staging point for trekking in the nearby valleys and for climbing Mount Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak as well as motorcycle rides in to the wild hill country. Extended treks to visit villages of minority tribes are also available.

Places of interest 

Mount Fansipan

Indochina’s highest peak, Mount Fansipan is only 9km from Sapa town and climbing to its summit is one of Asia’s most challenging adventures. The trek takes visitors through tiny remote villages and areas of rainforest. 

Hilltribe Villages (Ta Phin, Ta Van, Lao Chai, Cat Cat)

Shorter treks are also very rewarding, and within just a few hours walkers can be in villages that have seen few foreigners. The hill-tribe peoples in this area of Vietnam wear colorful traditional dress as a matter of daily routine and all follow their traditional agricultural way of life which has remained unchanged for centuries.

The various ethnic peoples are relatively easy to identify due to their attire. For example the H’mong wears dark clothing, usually blue or black. The dye is fashioned from the indigo or hemp plant that is native to the area. H’mong women wear long aprons with embroidered waistcoats and have their hair rolled up into a turban-like hat, whilst the men wear a black skullcap, long waistcoat and loose trousers. 

Another equally distinctive minority are the Dao (pronounced Zao). Dao women are particularly striking as they shave their hair and eyebrows and wear a large red turban often covered with old coins or jewelry.

Visiting caves near Sapa towm

Ham Rong Mountain looks like a giant mouth facing the sky when seeing from the far distance. It is said that this is the dragon head, which is turned into stone. In one side of the cliff, there are two big cave entrances, which are parallel to each other and called Ham Rong cave.

About 500m from Muong Khuong district, Lao Cai province, there are two mountains emerging and created two vertical cliffs. Between them is Muong Khuong – Pha Long road which is called Ham Rong by local people.

Ham Rong Mountain looks like a giant mouth facing the sky when seeing from the far distance. It is said that this is the dragon head, which is turned into stone. In one side of the cliff, there are two big cave entrances, which are parallel to each other and called Ham Rong cave.

The entrance is wide and deep with the various stalactites in different colors and shapes, which encourage people’s imagination. The main cave has the spiky stalactites, which are like dragon’s teeth. In winter, water spume from this entrance creates the clouds and an illusory beauty.

There is a connected way between two entrances. Inside the cave, there is a wide way of 1.5km long crossing the mountain to the third entrance, which looks like an ear of the dragon. The dome would reach 20m. There are many groups of stalactites in the dome and under the floor which are very plentiful and various. Some of the group has luminescent when there is sunlight.

In dry season, there are still underneath water line in the cave and it appears suddenly in the cave. In the rain season, the water from the spring of Muong Khuong flows to the cave entrance and release to the fourth entrance cave to create the Pao Tung  waterfall with the height of hundred meter.

From the cave of Ham Rong, crossing the slope of 9 handles, visitors in Vietnam tourism could reach Mao Chao Su hamlet. About 1.5km from the path of the people doing the terraced field, there is another cave called Mao Chao Su. This is one of the places to honor and worship for local people.

The entrance gate faces the South East, in front of the cave is a wide valley, which is the settle place of Na Mang village, and it is like a landmark for the grandiose mountains. The entrance has two bamboo groups, which helps the cave beautiful in a private way. There is no similar thing between the outer and inner part of the cave. The cave is quite big with hundreds of people could be contained, and people could feel the maze is appearing in front of the eyes.

Perhaps the underneath water line and the wearing out of the water, the stalactites are created in high density. The water drops from the top of the stalactites and created the sparkling lines in the shape of windy curtain. The cave shape is more and stranger with the shapes of stone lines, which aare connected to the floors like the terraced field of local people. There are some big pillars, which are separated into the equal conk of stalactites, and when you knock on them, there would be nice sounds and echoes back.

On the cliff of the cave, there are white stalactites, which are like the rice bundle. There are shapes of statues, patterns, etc that create a splendid view.

If Ham Rong cave is magnitude with the firm stalactites, the stalactites in Mao Chao Su are delicate, smooth, and pure like the crystallized salt. There are some stone and stalactites created in the equal thick to form the wattles among the long house. Mao Chao Su cave is not long but the stalactites are gorgeous and impressive for anyone.

Mao Chao Su has many more things to say. Besides, there are many caves like Muong Ngua cave, Lung Pau cave, etc.

Ham Rong and Mao Chao Su are two of the complex of cavees and caves in Muong Khuong district which is beautiful for the complex of  various and wild cavees. This mountainous area has many beautiful things and cultural features, being waited to discover.

Sparkling nightlife in Sapa

Sa Pa is a beautiful scenery, mountainous town in northern Vietnam along the border with China. It has long been a famous destination to tourists from all over the world to Vietnam.

It’s cool weather, breathtaking landscapes have enchanted a great number of tourists and built up its fame as as a paradise on the mountain. One interesting experience in Sa Pa that tourists can never forget is its nightlife.

In daytime, Sa Pa is beautiful; its night scenery is also extremely gorgeous. The mountainous city is lit up with attractive, colorful light which creates an extraordinary fanciful sight.

At night Sa Pa is still very lively. Streets with very romantic names like Cầu Mây, Mường Hoa… is crowded with foreign tourists. They leisurely walk on sloping streets, contemplate souvenir shops and take photos.

Tourists often concentrate in the Stone church area where there are a lot of grilled restaurants and souvenir shops. After wandering about the streets, how comfortable it is to enjoy delicious grilled foods such as sweet potato, egg, bird, pork, sugar cane, etc a in the cold weather of Sa Pa’s night.  Souvenir shops offer various local specialties which can be bought as presents for your beloved such as ethnic crafts especially needle work on batik fabric ranging from traditional costumes and accessories, H’mong blanket, raw embroidery works, skirts, men blouses, hats…

Tourists who are keen on exploring traditional cultures will be lured by the Love market in Sa Pa.  Ethnic groups put on their most colorful costumes and head to Sa Pa’s market on Saturday. The girls hide in the dark shadows and sing love songs to attract the boys, who try to find where the songs come from. If they are well matched, they disappear into the forest for three days. Perhaps, some of them get married after that.

Life in Taphin village -Sapa

Though Sapa has long been familiar with tourists, Ta Phin Village is still a new name to almost everybody. Located about 17km in the west of Sapa, Ta Phin is a village of Red Dao’s people possessing a rich culture that has not been damaged by the modern life.

 From Sapa, it will take about 30 minutes to reach Taphin by motorbike. The road can make it difficult for cars to move, so the best solution is to hire a “xe om”, or motorbike taxi, and the experienced driver will take you to right place at a very reasonable price with many useful advices and tips.

Coming to Ta Phin, you will immediately catch sight of groups of Red Dao’s women gathering together, keeping inside their hands colorful reels of thread and cloths. They sew continuously, even when offering the goods to the customers. Amazingly, most of them can speak quite well, some use Vietnamese less than English. Since 1998, Ta Phin has officially become the “brocade village”, where tourists in Vietnam tours can find the distinctively hand-made brocades made by ethnic people. All of the products are eye-catching with numerous bright colors and patterns, ranging from bag, scarf, purse, to skirt, and even backpack and coat. Ta Phin is also the main supply of brocades for shops inHanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and the products are exported to foreign countries as well.

Time passes slowly up here in the mountains, Ta Phin Village, however, still can remain its special traditions. Fortunately, you can have a chance to participate in a Red Dao’s wedding, seeing how they prepare and many complicated customs for this occasion. There are also some local festivals such as “dancing festival”, “oath-taking ceremony” that will help tourists in Vietnam toursunderstand more about the simple but happy life of ethnic people.

The peacefully picturesque sceneries of Catcat Village- Sapa

Catcat village attracts tourists from all over the world for its distinctive customs and practices which have been lost in almost ethnic villages

Catcat Village is about three kilometers from the town of Sapa and it is navigable by foot. You could walk fromSapa to the village or rent a motorbike so you could go further after your visit to Cat Cat. You could also pay a motorbike taxi driver to take you to the village instead if you don’t want to walk nor drive a motorbike

Visiting Cat Cat, tourists in Vietnam tours will be impressed by the peacefully picturesque sceneries. People can easily catch sight of women sitting in front of the loom with colorful pieces of brocade, while children playing around with pets or even livestock. From the plain brocade, then women can carefully dye them with special leaves and embroider beautiful patterns of flower and animal on them. Moreover, many residents of Cat Cat Village are also skillful at manipulating sophisticated gold and silver jewelry.


The original architect of H’Mong people is interesting as well. Their house typically contains three rooms with three doors and po mu wood roof, while the walls’ material is sawn timber. There are other indispensable parts of the house such as altar, kitchen, places for keeping food and sleeping, etc.

Cat Cat Village gives visitors a chance to have a glimpse into the daily life of local ethnic people, and take part in traditional activities such as weaving fabric. It also is a good opportunity to purchase some traditional souvenirs and handicrafts right from the craftsmen. People can also try some local food selling the way upcoming to the hill.

In addition, the road leading to Cat Cat Village is an easy and interesting route for trekking. The spot is only within 20-30m minutes walking from Sapa center; and the hike through mountains will offer tourists the wonderful picture of rice paddies, water fall, or even water buffaloes grazing leisurely.

A taste of Hoang Lien national park sightseeing

Hoang Lien National Park, located in the Hoang Lien mountain range belonging to Sa Pa and Than Uyen districts, Lao Cai Province and includes Vietnam’s highest peak, Mount Fansipan (3,143 m).

The park supports a wide variety of habitat types: elevations below 1,800m support lower montane evergreen forest; elevations between 1,800 and 2,500m support upper montane evergreen forest, elevations between 2,500 and 2,800m support sub-alpine forest, while the vegetation above 2,800m is dominated by stands of dwarf bamboo with scattered, stunted trees. Below 1,000m, the forest has been almost entirely cleared and replaced with anthropogenic habitats, including secondary grassland, scrub and cultivation. Secondary habitats are also found at higher elevations. 

The park supports a high diversity of animal groups. 347 bird species have been recorded in and around the nature reserve, including 49 species that are restricted in Viet Nam to north-west Tonkin. The park also supports approximately one third of Viet Nam’s known amphibian species, the highest recorded amphibian species richness of any protected area in Viet Nam. Several amphibian species are currently known only from the site, and around 10% of the national park’s amphibian species are globally threatened. Invertebrate diversity is also very high, and many species of invertebrate discovered at the site are known from nowhere else in the world. 

Muong Hum Market

For people in ethnic groups in South West region, they go to the market not only for shopping. The market is also a place for young people to relax, date. People come to the market to see and to be seen.

From Lao Cai central commune, visitors must go 20km of asphalt road by car to Bat Xat district, then from there go 24km of pass way to reach Muong Hum market. Muong Hum market is located under the small valley, behind pure stream, rounded by extremely high mountains. It’s a weekend market near the spring that is a meeting, communicating, trading and playing place of people in the ethnic groups Ha Nhi, Mong, Hoa, Giay, Red Dao, Dao Tuyen, Han…

Muong Hum Market

Just in several hours, the remote valley Muong Hum, Lao Cai, becomes a bustling place, the joining point of culture and cuisine of people in different ethnic groups.

Muong Hum market is opened in every Sunday from 7.00 am to 1.00 pm. Visitors can go from Lao Cao to Muong Hum by train with the ticket price 20,000 VND or by motorbike (xe om) which costs 70,000 VND.

Muong Hum Market

From 7.00 am, people sit crowdedly in the bus from Lao Cai to Muong Hum. There is a plenty of women sitting shakily, swinging their legs on the packages which are fully piled in the walking path. After 3 hours going on car, there is a walking part across the valleys and passing the rocks.

People put their products in embroidered bags, hemp bags, sacks and baskets wearing on the shoulders. The pairs of slippers with so much mud stick to, the trousers that are rolled up several times show the hard way that they have passed. 

Muong Hum Market

In the market, many Thai girls wearing long pink, green shirts gather around the stall selling handmade silver jewelries. At other corner, there are orange and green dresses of H’mong girls crowdedly standing around the heap of pomegranate.

Right behind that, bamboo shoots are displayed in abundance on the banana leaves, and Ha Nhi healers explain the use of herbal drug powder that they have gathered from the forest. Go further in the market, there is a crowd of children eating pho (rice noodle), the noodle threads are still fresh because they have just been made some hours ago.

It’s very interesting that each time when the transaction is finished, money is taken out from ridiculous positions such as under the trousers, on the sleeves, the bags near the for-sale willet, or under the heap of dry beans. The market is full of people making transactions, bustling activities and colors.

Muong Hum Market

If visiting a restaurant in Muong Hum, visitors will have a chance to enjoy horse meat fried with onion, pig entrails served with mint leaves and don’t forget to have them with Lao Cai wine or fresh beer.

For people in ethnic groups in South West region, they go to the market not only for shopping. The market is also a place for young people to relax, date. People come to the market to see and to be seen. The young Dao girls wear beautifully and sophisticatedly with red scarves on their heads which are rolled up and long to the ears.  

The long black dresses of Ha Nhi ethnic group is embroidered with green patterns that is new and sophisticated. From a week before the market, H’mong women spent their whole day to string the plastic beads on monofilament threads and wind the jewelry around the head that looks like a crown.

When the market ends, people can see H’mong wives walking, taking the horses along to carry their drunken husbands to home; the children speaking English proficiently despites of never going to the language school…



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