With the reputation of Sapa you won’t be surprised that many agencies offer treks here, so finding the right one is very overwhelming. Just a few things to consider – prices vary from agency to agency. Some will offer homestay, which actually means staying in houses with other tourists. Some treks will follow the mass tourist trail – with more vendors waiting for you on the way. So you should check exactly what the trek includes. Two agencies that are mentioned quite often are Sapa O’Chai and Sapa Sisters. Both are owned by members of minority villages, and look after the villages even when not sending tourists there. Unfortunately they are not cheap, and Sapa Sisters charges $45 extra for a real homestay. That actually put me off. The Tourist Information also deserves a mention here – after getting some information there we spoke to one of the local women from the villages, when the man from the Tourist information came out to tell us it is forbidden to use them as guide. So he spied on us, and came after us. This is such poor behaviour, and can there fore only recommend to stay away from them.
An alternative is to get one of the local women who will approach you in Sapa – offering a trek and staying with her family. This is not seen favourable by agencies, and you will hear constant warnings not to do it. My opinion to that – absolute nonsense. If you use one of the local guide you directly support the family, and the money does not disappear in the wallet of an office worker or into some fancy furniture.
I was lucky enough to do my overnight trek with a local H’Mong woman called Tom Tom. She was absolute fantastic, and she made this a great two days despite the bad weather. The price for the 2 day trek, staying in her home, 2x lunch, dinner and breakfast was only $25 pp.
Unfortunately the excitement of the trek died down quickly the next morning due to the terrible weather – heavy rain, fog and it was rather cold. Thankgfully it is possible to buy any trekking gear in Sapa (well – none of the Northface items were original), so rain caots, thicker socks etc can be bought here. You can even hire wellies if you think your normal shoes might get too wet. Price is $4 for 2 days.
We met Tom Tom to start the trek – and we were joined but three more women from the same village. After a short stop at the market, we finally left Sapa, and started to walk up the first hill. Thanks to the rain it was a bit slippery, and slightly more difficult than usual. And to make things worse, you didn’t even got a view over Sapa because of the fog.