Foreign travelers impressed with wonderful week-trip to Sapa

Tuesday, 07/11/2023 21:45
According to VOV, Insider newspaper of the United States recently released an article about a foreign traveler and her two kids who came to experience a wonderful week-long trip to Sa Pa in the nation’s northern mountainous region.
Author Alexandra Karplus traveled on an overnight sleeper train through Vietnam with 2 kids. (Photo courtesy of Insider newspaper) 

“I traveled on an overnight sleeper train through Vietnam with 2 kids. It was the best night's sleep on my weeklong trip,” said author Alexandra Karplus.

“Taking the train is a right decision for her family as the cabin was super clean with white sheets and fluffy duvets. There was a tray with four bananas, packs of Oreos, tea bags, wet wipes, toothbrushes, and bottles of water waiting for us on the bedside table,” she added.

“Facilities on the train were better than she expected,” the writer shared.

Most notably, some of the challenges faced along the way helped to motivate the kids, Karplus mentioned, adding that it was while wading through rivers and ducking under trees that the kids were happiest.

The kids also learned a lot over a home-cooked dinner, the author wrote, describing a stop at one woman's home for lunch.

The dishes served included slices of pork stir-fried with carrots, wild fern that had been plucked earlier had been cooked up with garlic, boiled pumpkin in a bowl, and piles of fried spring rolls with a spicy dipping sauce. All of them had been cooked in a large wok over the open fire in the room next door.

Retelling the story the following day on a call to her grandma, her eight-year-old daughter was most excited about the pets.

After four days of exploring the region, 28 miles of trekking, and a night spent on the creaky floor of the homestay, the group were all happy to get back on to the train for another good night's sleep, the writer shared while heading back to Hanoi.

Foreign media outlet suggests things to do in Hanoi

VOV has reported that South China Morning Post (SCMP) of Hong Kong (China) recently published an article highlighting Hanoi, which is just a two-hour flight away, as both satisfyingly “foreign” whilst being quintessentially Asian.

Dong Xuan Market is worth visiting simply for the spectacle. (Photo: Ed Peters)

Taking a stroll anywhere around the more popular parts of the capital and guests will be greeted with a gently clanging bell to announce the presence of a cyclo, a traditional Vietnamese rickshaw, with its rider looking for potential passengers, author Ed Peters wrote.

Food is one of the main delights of any trip to Vietnam. Indeed, “Street food” gets a mention, with the chicken noodles at Pho Ga Nguyet snagging a Bib Gourmand from Michelin that signifies a place that serves good food at moderate prices.

While Michelin’s arrival may shake things up, long-established restaurants such as Madame Hien remain hugely popular. Housed in a century-old, high-ceilinged mansion with a secluded courtyard, where Vietnamese classics such as duck cooked with green tea, daikon and mango costs just US$12.

Similarly, unadorned by Michelin stars, Cha Ca La Vong does what it says on the sign outside. The name refers to a boneless river catfish, which is fried at the table with fresh dill and spring onions, whilst it is eaten with rice noodles, cilantro, and roasted peanuts, the author noted.

In addition to souvenirs, there are plenty of well-made lacquerware, silk, and hand embroidery which can be snapped up in the mainstream shops around the Old Quarter and in adjacent districts.

Two steps removed from the tourist track but only a few hundred metres north of the Old Quarter lies Dong Xuan Market, which is a many-winged, three-storied hub of organised chaos. It is worth visiting simply for the spectacle, although prices are also realistic.

In parts, the aisles are so narrow that two people can barely fit past each other, whilst traders sit enthroned atop their wares, including clothing, fabrics, shoes, household goods, dried food, and myriad other odds and ends.

The ground floor hosts a fountain and seats, with the street outside at weekends transformed into a night market, whilst at Dong Xuan itself, the enjoyment of shopping is rivalled by that of just soaking up the vibe.

When all is said and done, taking in the atmosphere of the historic Vietnamese capital is the best reason to enjoy a break in Hanoi, the news outlet concluded.

Cable cars underscore stunning transformation of Vietnam’s economy, tourism: New York Times

According to VNA, cable car routes in Phu Quoc, Sa Pa, Ba Na and other destinations in Vietnam have made the headlines on the New York Times, which said they “underscore the stunning transformation of Vietnam’s economy and tourism sector”.

The leading US daily newspaper ran an article titled "If You Can Take the Cable Car to the Colosseum, You’re in Vietnam" on October 25, putting it first in the Travel section and kept it on the home page for many hours.

The world's longest three-cable ropeway to Hon Thom Island, Phu Quoc. (Photo: Minh Tu) 

Take a cable car to the "Colosseum"?

The funny title by the author of the article - reporter Patrick Scott - has aroused a lot of curiosity among international readers. Scott spent time researching cable car systems in Phu Quoc, Sa Pa, Da Nang, and wrote the descriptions based on his own feelings and those of international tourists.

The New York Times writer visited Phu Quoc in March and took the 8km cable car from Sunset Town to Hon Thom Island. He described the sea water at that time off southern Phu Quoc Island seen from the cable car as "as clear as crystal", which is further embellished by hundreds of colourful wooden fishing boats, creating a resplendent scene.

Sunset Town has the beauty of a Mediterranean town.

This cable car route is also the inspiration for Scott’s title of the article. He describes the cable car station area as a "full-scale" version of the Colosseum in Rome, and the entire Sunset Town as an elaborate replica of a Mediterranean city in Italy, with a bell tower, baroque fountains and Roman ruins. Scott believes Sun World Hon Thom and Sunset Town tourism areas are among Vietnam's most amazing man-made structures.

"It looked like Disneyland or The Truman Show," said Tomek Tabaka, a Polish tourist. 

In Da Nang, Scott commented that the cable car route to the top of Ba Na has transformed the old French hill station into Sun World Ba Na Hills - a European-style theme park, with French villages, Gothic churches, fairy-tale castles and, most notably, the Golden Bridge, a global media phenomenon.

Cable car system at Sun World Ba Na Hills (Photo: Pham Phung) 

In Sa Pa, he was impressed by the cable car system to Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak. Tourists will sit on the cable car crossing a sea of thick, white clouds before reaching the clear space at the peak. At Fansipan, tourists will admire spiritual complexes that simulate the architecture of 16th-century Vietnamese pagodas, including a 10-story bell tower, stone staircase system and a giant sitting Buddha statue.

Suvisa Vathananond and Patrick Tunhapong, two Thai tourists, commented that the Sun World Fansipan Legend tourism area strikes a good balance between conservation and development.

The cable car "brings Vietnam to the world"

"Vietnam is home to the world's four longest cable car lines, all built in the past decade, showing the dramatic transformation of Vietnam's economy and tourism industry," the US daily newspaper said, emphasising that the majority of famous cable car systems were developed by Sun Group – honoured as "Asia's Leading Integrated Tourism Group 2022-2023" by World Travel Awards.

Steven Dale, founder of "Gondola Project", a reputable website tracking the global cable car development industry, said that one of the most successful cable car development countries in Asia is Vietnam. According to data from cable car manufacturers, over the last two decades, about 26 cable car lines have been built in dozens of locations across Vietnam, showing the rapid development of facilities serving tourism needs.

The cable car to Fansipan peak 

The game started in 2007, when the Sun Group founders returned home from Ukraine, starting with the construction of the first cable car line about 6 km long to the peak of Ba Na in the central city of Da Nang, in collaboration with the world's leading cable car group Doppelmayr of Austria.

Since then, Sun Group has launched six Sun World areas with cable cars, earning up to 9 Guinness World Records, such as: The world's longest three-cable ropeway in Phu Quoc; World's biggest cable car in Ha Long (Quang Ninh); The world's tallest cable tower in Cat Ba (Hai Phong); The world's largest vertical climb cable car system to Fansipan peak in Sa Pa (Lao Cai), and The world's longest single-cable ropeway car to the peak of Ba Na (Da Nang).

Positive effects

According to Dale, Vietnam is suitable for cable car constructions due to its abundance of mountains, forests and islands. This is considered a "road" that has faster construction time, is cheaper, and causes less environmental damage than roads.

The New York Times commented that the cable car is meaningful for a developing country like Vietnam. The country's middle class cannot easily afford a trip to Rome (Italy), or Paris (France), but they can easily buy cable car tickets ranging from 25 to 45 USD to visit European-inspired destinations such as Ba Na Hills or Phu Quoc.

Besides Golden Bridge, Sun World Ba Na Hills also attracts tourists with structures such as the Lunar Castle

The newspaper also clearly pointed out the positive effects of cable cars on the local economy. As noted by the article, with the Sa Pa government, the locality only welcomed 65,000 tourists in 2010, before the highway was built from Hanoi in 2014 and the cable car was inaugurated in 2016. By 2019, the number of tourists had skyrocketed to 3.3 million and reached 2.5 million the previous year during the post-epidemic recovery.

Aside from mixed opinions about Sa Pa tourism, such as on ethnic minority children begging for money and uncontrollable development of buildings and hotels, the cable car has made Fansipan peak more accessible and attracted thousands of tourists every day. One commenter in the article noted that the cable car keeps other Sa Pa destinations from being overcrowded, and indigenous villages better retain their traditional features./.