Sa Pa Essentials is situated in the beautiful mountains of northern Vietnam. The area boasts Mt. Fan Xi Pang which, at 3143 metres, is the highest mountain in Indochina. The area is rich in plant diversity and Sa Pa is known as a centre of excellence for medicinal plants. The majority of the population is comprised of five ethnic minority groups: H'mong, Dao, Giay, Tay and Xa Pho. These peoples retain a strong cultural identity and continue to live in a traditional manner, as observed through their production of astonishing hand-woven textiles. However, the area is also one of the poorest in Vietnam with many living below the poverty line. Reliance on traditional medicine is high with wild-harvested plants forming the bulk of medicinal applications. Over-collection has resulted in forest resources becoming increasingly scarce with some species on the verge of local extinction.
Tourism is a major occupation in Sa Pa. The town contains a multitude of hotels and guesthouses, each of which offers tours to local markets and home stays in local villages. Hotels and tour operators also run treks into the Hoang Lien National Park. Treks cater for both the casual walker through traditional villages and the seasoned expeditioner with somewhat more challenging treks within the mountain range. Just remember to take some penduliflora massage balm to revitalise those tired muscles!
Alternatively wander through the busy market or relax on your hotel balcony with a cold drink and enjoy some stunning views of the mountain range and valley. And if you get bitten by a wayward mosquito be thankful that you remembered your blanda balm!
However you choose to enjoy Sa Pa please remember to respect the natural environment. Please take your rubbish with you and dispose of it carefully.