Sapa : fifty shades of a smile

Storytelling Vietnam

Located at one thousand six hundred meters above sea level in Vietnam’s northwest mountains, near Chinese border, Sapa is also named « the blue country » or « the town above the clouds » . The city is famous to spread a magical atmosphere, and casts a spell over Asia lovers from all over the world.

On the hillsides, the rice terraces seem endless and stretch as far as the eye can see. In a country which is second largest exporter worldwide of rice, Sapa dominates a whole region of terraced rice fields, also called the « stairways to Heaven » by many people. According to the season, the fields are green with patches of golden colors, or reflect the reddish brown of the mud ground. But in November, the crop season’s over and the paddies are already fulfilled with water.

Today, an early morning mist covers the spectacle, but as the hike goes on, the daylight finally shows the beautiful scenery through the clouds, where the true spirit of Sapa awaits. We’re finally able to see the most of the spectacular views emerging on the clear day : it overlooks a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides.

Yet, this is not where the symphony of colors ends : Sapa’s also well known for the Hmong community and the profusion of colors they’re used to wear.  Decked out in bold violet and emerald outfit, some Hmong women decide to walk part of the way with us, carrying a basket full of handmade goods in the hope we’ll buy some at the end of the road.

A few steps away and with disarming smiles, two of them take a stem and some twigs to shape two small horses that they give us as a welcome gift to their lands. Between the terraced rice fields, the ground is as slippery as impervious but when they feel the hesitation, they give a hand and help us to cross the skinny clay ramparts.

Sapa is like that : full of humbling moments that make you feel so small when you think about all the cultural diversity of the Hill Tribes.