Before you get further into this post of beautiful SaPa photos, I want you to know how this part of our trip truthfully went. While the photos are some of my favorites, I sadly can't say the same about our actual experiences in the town.
The trip to SaPa began with a sleepless overnight train ride. On a backpacking trip like this, I expect a certain amount of uncomfortable travel. But when we arrived to see absolutely nothing but fog, it was definitely disheartening. Our choices at that point were to sit in our hotel room and do absolutely nothing, or go out and explore anyways. We hiked in muddy and cold conditions which we were definitely not dressed for. We ended up buying North Face jackets (sold all over town), as did every other tourist visiting.
While walking through town we were followed by locals trying to sell us goods, so much so that they hiked with us for two hours in hopes of selling us some bags they had made. Their sales techniques were quite aggressive, and had some people around us breaking down exclaiming "Just take my money then, I don't want to buy anything. Just please leave me alone."
After hikes, we would rinse our sneakers in the bathtub because they were completely covered in mud. We rode the overnight train back to Hanoi completely exhausted with soggy sneakers and our new North Face jackets in tow.
I realize that the photos we took romanticize the trip, so I wanted to make sure that I share the not so great parts as well. While many other areas throughout Southeast Asia are warm throughout Winter, we hadn't done enough research to find out that Northern Vietnam does get quite cold and foggy. If you do plan on visiting, I would recommend going during warmer months so that you can actually see the views!
My other recommendation would just be to be prepared for some hard selling techniques by the locals. You will be followed and asked over and over to buy goods that you may not be interested in. The town has become a bit too touristy for its own good - but I completely understand why. It's a beautiful town with a very interesting culture and history.
So what do you think, have I ruined it for you? Would you still visit SaPa knowing everything you know now?