We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Great alternative to Sapa - Go to Bac Ha instead

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
199 posts
7 reviews
Great alternative to Sapa - Go to Bac Ha instead

Hi All, we're fresh back from a 4.5 week family (parents and 13 & 15yo) tour of north Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong & Bac Ha), Laos (Luang Prabang as base), Cambodia (Siem Reap as base) and Thailand, of which a visit to Bac Ha was a definite highlight. In our original plan we were going to Sapa by overnight train to Lao Cai but after reading about all the development there we decided to go to Bac Ha instead.

Bac Ha was a delight. We stayed at Huy Trung Homestay (another delight) and pre-arranged for a van to pick us up from Lao Cai station when our overnight train from Hanoi arrived early in the morning (6am). We were duly met by the van driver who waited whilst we had breakfast at a cafe near the station and then we set off on the approx 1.5-2 hour drive to Bac Ha but stopping off at Coc Ly Market (as I heard it was open on Tuesdays mornings) about half way to Bac Ha. This was a great little village market to see the local hill tribe villagers (although the livestock sales aspect was fairly confronting for our kids - eg small pigs in bags with just their snouts sticking out etc). It was a pleasant drive to Bac Ha through limestone hills and rice terraces and our homestay was great and the owner most friendly (but not obsequious, thankfully - and his wife who doesn't speak english is a marvellous cook - some of the best meals on our trip). We spent 2D/3N here and the town and surrounds are lovely and surrounded by forested hills, as well as being untouristed (the only other tourists we saw being a family of French out touring). We engaged the owner to show us the sights on each day (although you could rent a motorcycle for $7 a day), and we enjoyed visits and walks thru hill-tribe villages as well as swims at waterfalls along the way. We all enjoyed it immensely even our owner/guide who said he rarely had the chance to swim at the waterfalls as the few travellers who come don't tend to swim. We had a very late checkout at the end of our stay and took a private van back to Lao Cai to catch the evening overnight train back to Hanoi (however there is cheap public buses between Lao Cai and Bac Ha). I would highly recommend anyone thinking of spending a couple of days in Sapa to instead go to Bac Ha. I admit I haven't been to Sapa but if it is at all like some of the newly overdeveloped areas of IndoChina I don't think I missed anything. I heard Sapa was beautiful and quiet a few years ago, however it seems Bac Ha is still that way now. Go now before the same thing happens, although hopefully the Bac Ha locals will learn from the mistakes of Sapa. I note we were in Bac Ha in early July (we had no rain), so perhaps it get more touristed in the dry season - or perhaps not.

4 replies to this topic
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
1,059 posts
271 reviews
1. Re: Great alternative to Sapa - Go to Bac Ha instead

Hi we spent 2 nights in Bac Ha in May. We stayed in town at Ngan Nga Bac Ha hotel on a Friday and Saturday night. Curious to hear what a private pickup cost you? We took public mini van from Lao Cai. Pretty hair raising and uncomfortable trip with virtually no legroom. Paid 70k each. Bac Ha on the friday afternoon & Saturday morning was quiet, but came to life Saturday afternoon & the markets Sunday morning were an unbelievable spectacle. We took public mini vans mid Sunday morning to Lao Cai, then another to Sapa. On the Saturday morning we took a private car and driver to Can Cau market 20km away & then we hiked back Bac Ha cross counrtry through rice fiels with a hmong guide. Unbelievably scenic walk with not a tourist in sight all trip. Many highlites of our Vietnam visit, but Bac Ha was definitely 1 of them. ps Sapa was definitely much more touristy, but we enjoyed it too

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
1,059 posts
271 reviews
2. Re: Great alternative to Sapa - Go to Bac Ha instead

my pics from Bac Ha and Can Cau & the walk between the 2 https:/…72157694451822902

Hanoi
Level Contributor
1,378 posts
80 reviews
3. Re: Great alternative to Sapa - Go to Bac Ha instead

To go Bac Ha-Sapa, go to the Ngan Nga Bac Ha hotel, the best in town (excellent food !), for lunch and ask the young owner to get you seats on a minibus which brought passengers from Sapa for a day or 2 visit and is going back to Sapa around 15h30. If you go back to Hanoi, take the direct night bus BH-H

The director arranges excellent cheap trekkings.

Tarentum...
Destination Expert
for Da Nang, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Level Contributor
3,202 posts
212 reviews
4. Re: Great alternative to Sapa - Go to Bac Ha instead

Bad Ha, Ha HaGiang, Dong Van, Meo Vac are a far better choice than SaPa. Rustic, non touristy the further out you go. Best scenery in VietNam.

Reply to: Great alternative to Sapa - Go to Bac Ha instead
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted