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Lang Son

Lang Son is the chief town of the province under the same name, yet it mainly serves the travelers as a point to stop off on their way to somewhere else. This is a popular place to cross to and from China, esp. after the two countries reopened the border. The town still contains the remains of a citadel built in 18 th century, and there are numerous hilltribe villages around this area, particularly those of the Tay, Nung and Zao. The Vietnamese tourists also stop here to visit Buddhist pagodas built inside Nhi Thanh and Tam Thanh Caves, which are believed to have echo twice (Nhi Thanh) or three times (Tam Thanh). Lang Son is also famous for winter fruits like peaches, pears, plums and persimmons and for grilled ducks and porks, which evidently bear the influence of Chinese Guangdong cuisine. 

To cross to China from Lang Son is passing over Dong Dang bordergate which is 20 km from Lang son. If you are entering Vietnam from here, you MUST have the correct entry point (Dong Dang) marked on your visa, otherwise you may be turned away. This can create a problem as you would have already officially left China.

Sapa
Sapa valley Vietnam

Sapa is the most popular place to go in the Far Northwest amongst budget travelers and packages tourists alike. By using Sapa as a base you can hike off to more remote ‘traditional' hill tribe villages and sometimes you will be offered a bed in a village for the night. Sapa was originally built as a hill station in the early part of this century and, in winter, gets bitterly cold. If you are going to be visiting Sapa in winter do not forget the winter  woollies.

Sapa is preparing itself for the continuing tourist boom considerably well. Behind Sapa, towards Phong Tho is a high pass forming part of the Hoang Lien Mountains that were known to the French as the Tonkinese Alps. This range includes Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143m, which view at dawn could be spectacular.

There is a weekend market in Sapa during which the town fills up with hilltribe people selling their wares. If you want to see these tribes as they "traditionally" live (as opposed to flogging jackets to tourists), either go for a hike or head over to Dien Bien Phu from Sapa. This stretch has the most traditional people you will see in the whole of Vietnam. It seems that most tourist groups pile into Sapa during the weekend for the market. However, travelers have reported that during the week is a much better time to catch a glimpse of the real Sapa avoiding from a big hassle of tourists.

You can hike in the surrounding area and visit a number of fairly traditional predominantly Mong hilltribe villages. Further afield is the colourful Red Zao, Dzay, Tay and Xa Pho people. A home stay in the Tay village would be unforgettable experience.

 

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