We travelled from Sapa to the scenic village of Sin Ho, surrounded by mountains; this small village concentrates large numbers of ethnic minorities in their traditional clothes every Sunday. Sin Ho’s market is the biggest and most colourful market for hill tribe people. Despite its importance, the bad state of the roads puts most tourists off visiting it, keeping the place authenticity intact. It is a unique experience!!
This is the second part of our 4 days motorbike route through Northern Vietnam with a total of 40 $ per person. Read Off the beaten path Vietnam: Sapa by motorbike for the first part of the adventure.
- Motorbike –we rented a semiautomatic –
- Sleeping bags and tent –when out off the tourist path is very useful in case of not finding any accommodation-
- Food and water
- Rain coat and warm clothes, it can be very chilly at night and early in the morning, weather is very unpredictable and it rains quite often. We also recommend some light clothing. You will experience dramatic temperature changes from cold to hot in hours; Sapa is the coldest place in Vietnam and Lai Chau one of the hottest!
- The app maps.me was very useful to us to guide you whether you are walking or driving, it uses the antennae and GPS of your phone, so no need of Wi-Fi or SIM card. It works great!
Organize your time in a way that you can be in Sin Ho for the market. Remember only Sundays, best hours from 8 -11a.m.
Note: One thing you need to have in mind is the weather; bad state of roads with rain can be fatal as landslides are common after storms. Check the forecast!
Sapa –Lai chau
Note: This part of the road is in a good state although there are some sharp curves.
This 65 km on the scenic road QL4D will take you through outstanding great mountain points like Tram Ton Pass (Vietnam highest road at 1900 meters) and the extraordinary mount Fansipan (Indochina’s highest peak at 3.143 meters), which dominates the landscape until you reach Lai Chau.
Make sure you have enough time to stop on the way and enjoy the beautiful views ;I can guarantee you will be stopping more than once because the landscape is just amazing.
Lai Chau is a bizarre city; with some of the government buildings in Hollywood style, concrete houses, new roads and tidy gardens it didn’t feel we were in wild Vietnam. We hardly saw any locals around, so we renamed it “ The ghost town”.
We didn’t spend much time here, just wondered around, visited a small market and had some lunch to recharge some energy for the rest of the way.
If you think you had enough of the road for the day you can find some places to sleep in Lai Chau. We decided to carry on as it was early in the afternoon and we had our tent to sleep in, if we didn’t reach Sin ho before dark.
Lai Chau to Sin Ho
To begin with, we were a bit confused on how to get to Sin Ho from here, as it seems there are two different routes, so we asked the locals, who better than them?
They sent us to a back road in the mountain – Road TL 129. Large part of this road resulted being under construction, barely dug out from the mountain, but rewarded us with incredibly beautiful scenery and a literally ‘off the road’ experience.
We visited several hill tribe villages along the way where people were startled from seeing us there. You could tell they hadn’t seen many tourists around! It was getting dark and still some 20 km left to get to Sin Ho.
As we didn’t want to drive at night we decided to look for a place to set up our tent
We were in NÂ KÊ, a tiny and isolated Flower Hmong tribe village. We asked a family’s permission to camp in their garden, again using our ‘sign language’ skills. Suddenly the whole village came, talking in their own language to each other with a tone of excitement. The eldest tribe woman was the one explaining us, in sign language, that it was going to rain during the night, so it was not safe for us to camp outdoors and they offered us to camp inside the only concrete building in the tiny village: The church !!. As soon as we set up the tent, a huge storm with heavy rain was over us. We had some bread and canned tuna so we were eating dinner while watching the thunderous storm over us!
People were so generous that they even brought us some rice, soup and herb sauce, we were amazed by the kindness of these people, they were worried about us and wanted to help, once again people living with the basics gave us shelter, food and all their pure good intentions.
Poor people are richer in kindness in their poverty than most wealthy people are in their abundance
Next morning after breakfast and a mix of smiles and hugs we thanked the whole village for their help and carried on our way to Sin Hó market.
The next 28 km to Sin ho, were as impressive as the day before: evergreen mountains surrounded by early morning low clouds, with incredible, nearly vertical rice terraced slopes.
Soon we started seeing groups of local minorities from all villages walking along the road, loaded with heavy rattan baskets heading on the same direction: Sin Ho market. It was like being in one of those far away land’s documentary.
The market is located in town center and is at its best between 8 to 11 am, although it is open until approx. 1 pm
The market, rustic in everyway was absolutely crowded by hundreds of local minorities dressed in their colorful and traditional clothes, exchanging goods. This is not a market for tourist or foreigners (we counted four foreigners apart from us) and this is why we really enjoyed of this market. Locals are doing their thing, they don’t even look at you they are there to trade, to buy their needs, so we could really enjoy being there and not being invasive or make any difference into their daily lives.
This was really the kind of experience we wanted to live and I hope it remains that way for a long time. Although I know once roadworks finish, more tourists will visit this place and unfortunately it will affect in some way.
After an authentic traditional market morning, we visited the surroundings and other small villages where we could enjoy again of the kindness of this people.
There are a few places where you can overnight in Sin Ho; we stayed in a Hostel (120000 Dongs=5.4$ double room).
Thanks for reading , if you liked our adventure don’t be selfish and share it !!