There is nothing more pleasant than admiring wild spring flowers and listening to Sapa’s ethnic people play traditional instruments on a highland morning.
Whenever I find life frustrating, I like to escape outside Hanoi to find peace in mind. Sapa is an ideal choice since it is not too far to travel but its life is totally different from the hustle and bustle of the city. Sapa is a highland town located 38km from Lao Cai City. There are now tourist buses from Hanoi on the Hanoi-Lao Cai highway which take half the time but I prefer the safer and more relaxing kind of transportation – train. After 8-hour sleep overnight on train, I arrived Lao Cai. From there, it took another 30 minutes by minibus to reach Sapa .
Although I visit the town every year, Sapa always surprise me with different facets. The drizzle and gold-drenched terrace fields impressed me as did the fog that blanketed the town. The stone church seemed to play hide and seek in the mist. Cherry blossoms bloomed in the heart of green jungle, sketching a youthful spring masterpiece in my eyes. I was mesmerized by the beauty of Sapa.
Colourful peach blossoms and pure white plum blossoms jostled to bloom despite the frost. Lingering dew drops on budding branches added more charm. Spring, a season that heralds the rise of vitality, had come. There is nothing more fantastic than to admire flowering branch tearing the sky and listening to the mellow melodies of an ethnic lad and the sweet voice of a highland beauty on a spring morning. Although love market has ceased, the sound of courting couples made me proud that these ethnic people have preserved their identity through many generations, particularly when Sapa is modernizing.
Ethnic communities around Sapa receive visitors all year long. It is normal to see throngs of young ethnic minority girls selling little bag decorated with hand-embroidered patterns. Normally, these girls are finely attired in handmade indigo clothes and silver jewellery. In the spring days preceding Tet, they don their finest and most elaborately decorated clothes to greet the New Year. Spring comes to every hamlet, leaving unconcealed joy on the faces of the locals.
To celebrate New Year in Sapa is both familiar and exotic. Familiar sight include terraced fields meandering around mountains, the imposing stone church right in the town’s central spare, ethnic people with sparkling eyes, and steep, winding lanes that connect far-flung hamlets. It is equally exotic because of new experiences every time coming back and the happiness of seeing nature awaken and changed with time. Sapa is worth a return, even many returns.
by Binh Minh