What a great place this is!
Let down only by persistent mist fog and woodsmoke which obscures what would otherwise be magnificent scenery. I am sure there is an optimum time to be here for best weather.
Overnight train from Hanoi the last and spectacular stages of which are traversed in daylight. The train is squeezy - we had a four berth cabin with friends - and you need to be!
Don't take big suitcases - there is no room. We slimmed down to a small bag between us and were glad we did. Had a dining car going up which Angus and I frequented until closing time.
Don't count on getting a whole lot of sleep - I sure didn't. The train being narrow gauge , overhangs the rails by a lot which induces a rocking and rolling motion and considerable noise as wheels squeal going around corners or under braking.
The extent of cultivation has to be seen to be believed, In one of the intermediate stations there were plots of herbs growing between adjacent pairs of tracks!!
Terminal at Lao Cai close to the Chinese Border. Sa Pa however is off to the West in the Vietnamese norther highlands. If you keep going west you will get to Dien Bien Phu (for military history buffs) just before the Lao border.
We were collected in a bus for the 35km drive to Sa Pa.
A great little town which in our case was perpetually shrouded by billowing clouds of mist augmented by smoke from local cooking fires, and perched between some very steep hills.
Good points - The Hotel i strategically poised above the centre of town which is itself adjacent to a decorative lake. The Hotel is very well presented, the staff are excellent and the rooms well positioned and appointed.
Needs work - Restaurant was good although when we dined there on the Saturday night they had a superfluous open fire (it was not cold) burning what appeared to be green firewood which gave off an acrid smoke that got into our clothes.
We also dined downtown at a great little spot called Geckos which is almost opposite the bottom of a flight of steps that takes you up to a point adjacent to the Hotel entrance. Geckos does a roaring trade catering for Western and Asian tastes - or fusion of the two! Well patronised by both locals and tourists. Plenty of others to chose from too.
Sleep quality in the hotel offsets the train - we slept like logs. Rooms are well appointed and adequately roomy. Bathrooms are good - even have a clothes line for washing out items that will dry easily - there is no aircon only a ceiling fans so heavier items are going to need more time that you are likely to have.unless you're staying for more than two nights.
We did a short trek to a local Hmong village which was good. Their lifestyle and living condition are pretty frugal - earth floor and very dark airless windowless structures that are windlow-less and airless. Their embroidery and weaving skills on the other hand have to be seen to be believed. Our guide, Wang, was a delight.
My wife and I also did a ridge top walk along the rim of a valley to the south because I was intrigued as to why the town seemed to just end away to the right of the hotel. The answer is there is aa very deep valley which was unfortunately obscured by mist.for most of the time. We had headed off looking for the Silver Waterfall but in the absence of a map or any distance measuring device we gave up. Well worth the effort though.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa is unique 4 star with international standard, is located in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled locations of Northern Vietnam, (1,600 m), 380 km Northwest of Hanoi, among the highest peak Fan Si Pan (3,143 m), 38 km from Chinese border and 34 km from Lao Cai railway station. The Victoria Sapa Hotel is reachable by Victoria Express Train, which departs 6 times a week from Hanoi to Lao Cai and Laocai to Hanoi. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Victoria Sapa Hotel Sapa
- Victoria Hotel Sapa
- Sapa Victoria Hotel