Exploring the Nature and Culture of Sa Pa, Vietnam

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With its abundant nature and distinctive rice terraces, the Vietnamese town of Sa Pa brings in many tourists and Instagrammers—as well as rapid economic changes. Located 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level, Sa Pa is the capital town of Sa Pa District in Lào Cai Province, a region in northwest Vietnam that lies in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range in the far eastern part of the Himalayas and runs along the Chinese border. The mountains in this area are covered with rows of rice fields lined up like staircases, creating an extraordinary landscape.

Sa Pa is home to several local hill tribes of which the Hmong and Dao are the largest. Although the tribes inhabited the region for centuries, it wasn’t until the French colonization in the late 1880s that Sa Pa became recognized as an official town on the national map. Since then, different groups of people have moved in and out of the area due to military conflicts and economic reformations to create the current state of cultural diversity. Today, the rustic living environment creates a large draw for people who want to share in the experience of the frontier town at its full economic boom.