Traveling with locals

As the best way to learn about the local people

Happy roads in Sapa

by / Friday, 13 April 2012 / Published in Stories / Tagged

We arrived by sleeping bus in the early morning at a hostel in Sapa. There our exciting hiking tour started. First walked to a local village over the main roads. We were accompanied by a lot of locals, wearing very nice, colorful dresses. We really enjoyed their company, they were very interested in us.

I was surprised about their level of English. Some of the girls were only 12 years old, but we nevertheless had nice conversations about the country, the family and her daily life. Later, it turned out that they were quite good business women as well. They start selling stuff to us, and we bought it because we liked them.

After the lunch, the guide asked us jokingly if we’d like to try the “Happy Road”. We agreed, and quickly realized why she had laughed: the happy road took us right through the jungle, where there hardly seemed to be a path at all. Finally, we arrived at the place where we’d be spending the night.

It was nice to get the opportunity to stay amongst the locals (with the family of our tour guide). We were invited to help with cutting the vegetables for the cooking, and we also got a quick course in wrapping spring rolls. Our guide also had a surprise for us: a bottle of ricewine. Initially, she joined us for a few drinks, but she quickly realized that the drinking speed of 10 Dutch students was not quite what she was used to, and she retreated. It was strange to see how dark it actually became in the village during the night. In the Netherlands, we were of course used to street lights being on everywhere, but here, everything was pitch black, except the warm glow that came from the lights in our house.

The next misty morning, we started on the second lap of our tour. The tour guide offered us the easy road, but we decided to take the challenge and go for the “happy road” again. There had been quite some rain, and the road was very slippery. Quite a few of us learnt this the hard way; every now and then we’d hear a scream indicating someone had fallen to the ground again. We were accompanied by the locals, who were watching this with broad smiles on their faces. Luckily for us, they were also very helpful and would give us a hand on the more difficult paths. We couldn’t figure out how they could walk so easily while we constantly danced and stumbled around. Of course, after all their help, we were more than willing to buy some of their souvenirs when we finally arrived at their village. This happy road was quite an adventure for us, but we really liked it and gave us a nice adrenalin boost.

In the afternoon we continued our walk. It was nice to see that the mists of the morning had disappeared, and we got a beautiful view of the green hills and valleys that lined the landscape around us. We were getting used to the crazy roads our tour guide took us through. When we arrived in the village of our second home stay, we were surprised to see that the villagers wore very different clothes from what we saw in our first homestay village. It was so beautiful! We learned from our guide that each area has its own clothing, which is very nice to see. Some hours later we arrived at our second home stay, and we were welcomed by three children. They were very curious about us and wanted to play games. We did some dancing moves with the kids until we went to bed, tired of all the experiences.

These three days in Sapa were an absolutely amazing experience. Before the trip I was wondering if I could manage three days of hiking, but in the end I wished that I could stay for a longer time. The children are so curious and the people are very friendly and open to new stories and the craziness of all the tourists. The lifestyle of the people, without all the materialism and all the luxurious products, I will remember Sapa for a long time and will definitely come back one day!

Martin Sleegers

Hi, I’m Martin, I have just finished my Bachelor Degree in Business Administration. In April, I visited Vietnam and Sapa with 10 friends of my study. It was a great trip!

Traveling with locals

At the moment I am working at a really cool company, called Withlocals. It is an online platform that connects locals directly with travelers through food and experiences. Locals can offer tours, activities and home-dinners to travelers and can set up their own prices. How cool would it be if you are invited by a local for a dinner with his family at his house? This will give you the chance to see the country up-close and personal, just like the tours in Sapa.

Comins soon to a screen near you

In September, Withlocals will launch in Vietnam for a small group of tourists and locals. Check out the website for more information and become part of this new exciting way of travelling.

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  • Thanks for sharing your story, Sapa kids are something huh ! your concept of With Locals is something too and looks promising, "chuc may manh" with it !
    Sapa Story webmaster