Sa Pa and the Fan Si Pan. A small town and the summit of Indochina. Perhaps the dragon King Lac Lan Quan, master of the seas and the fairy, Au Co, goddess of the mountains met here in the magic of the spectacular clouds and mystic fog and produced the hundred sons, who according to the legend, are the ancestors of all Vietnamese.
Sa Pa has always been a market town for the whole region. There are no steps, no niches left unused to present all sorts of imaginable goods. Heavily laden bamboo baskets and carrying frames give an insight into the strenuous daily life of their bearers, whose friendliness and openness give food for thought to all western visitors.
Two inhabitant groups, of the 54 ethnic minorities in total, predominate in Sa Pa and the surrounding villages. The black H’Mong, one of five subgroups of the H’Mongs, can be recognised by their indigo dyed dark blue costume and the red Daos by their colourful red costume. Both groups dress up with silver rings and chains on the arms, fingers, neck and ears – not only as valuable investment and jewellery, but also to protect them against illness and bad spirits.
As can be felt in whole of the Vietnam, there are no conflicts for land and resources in the northern mountains and the province Lao Cai, due to race or religion. Each minority keeps their customs, their langauge and their festivals, making more than 20 official festivals from all groups in the region each year.
Paths and villages below Sa Pa are often covered in fog and are enticing for long hikes. The strange moods of the sunlight refracting through the fog and the impressions gained from the daily life of the inhabitants create unforgettable memories.
The pass, perhaps the home of Phat May, the original goddess of nature leads towards Lai Chau and the Chinese border, at a height of more than 2.000 metres. The countryside is characterised by rice plantations set in terraces which nuzzle up to the mighty mountains in uniform lines making “ladders” up to the summit of Indochina.