Tucked at the top of the northern boarder with China, the northern highlands are a glorious green area, famed for rice terraces and distinct ethic cultures. Tavan is a small part of this region and less busy than the more well known Sapa.
FINDING YOUR WAY
The northern highlands are roughly six hours drive north of Hanoi. The scenery quickly opens up as you leave the city and becomes more wild and beautiful. Sapa is a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains and is the main gateway to the highlands. Overlooking the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley it’s no wonder this is a popular base however, and you’ll see an obvious difference between here and everywhere else in the area. Sapa is developing fast. Since the construction of a new road, the journey has halved, allowing more buses and more people to visit. Next to the bus station a new shopping centre is being built as well as more restaurants and bars. Venture further and you’ll find a more rural and peaceful land.
THINGS TO DO
Explore by foot
There are lots of treks you can do by yourself to explore the beautiful landscape. These hills are vast and a lot of it looks similar so be sure to have a map and know where you’re heading. If you’re going to hire a guide look for recommendations for one that will talk to you rather than walk next you on their iPhone.
Explore by bike
You’ll cover a wider area by bike but absolutely, under no circumstances, hire a motorbike unless you’re an experienced rider. The roads often unmaintained, unpaved, uneven with sharp bends and no barriers to save you from severe drops. Coupled with that, when it rains roads are slippery or covered with water.
My Tra Home Stay
The top floor is the sleeping area with comfortable beds and a shared bathroom. You can also stay in one of the rooms for a bit more privacy, but be aware that the walls don’t reach the ceiling. There is balcony surrounding the back of the floor with lots of hammocks to relax in. The downstairs floor is the communal area which is so cosy! I stayed in the winter so it was lovely to have a warm fire, cup of tea and a good movie in the evenings.
It once took 10 hours minimum to get to Sapa from Hanoi. With the new roads you now arrive in 5-6 hours by bus. This is why Sapa is very touristy and built up. When you arrive in Sapa grab a taxi for half hour (costs about 200,000 dong) to your homestay. You’ll be glad you made the extra effort.
Visited January 2017
Little Amy Tours @littleamytours