Getting to Sapa:
The best option is to take the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa. The sleeper train is surprisingly comfortable although it is rocky. I paid $41 for the train to Sapa and $31 for my return. Again, These prices can be negotiated with the right bargaining but I would recommend the 4 berth soft sleeper and away from the joining carriages as it is quite squeaky.
From Lao Cai train station you will need to get a shuttle bus to Sapa. We paid 100,000 VND/person for a ride but it only cost me 50,000 VND to return from Sapa to the train station. Be sure to ask around for cheaper deals. At the taxi rank in Sapa there is a sign advertising lifts to the station for as low as 20,000 VND. This is worth looking into.
For $10- 210,000/night we got a double room at the Queen Palace hotel in Sapa. The room was adequate with an awesome view of the mountains. The linen wasn’t the cleanest but it was fine for the night before trekking.
In Sapa you won’t be short of places to eat an enjoyable meal. We ate at an Italian restaurant, although the name escapes me the view from that hillside restaurant is one I will never forget. The pasta was absolutely divine, so it’s worth checking it out. The bakery is fresh too for a pre/post trekking treats.
Things to do:
We met a lovely woman named Boa, pronounced Bow, who for $25 took us trekking through the mountains to her Village in Su Pan. This was an authentic experience which you can read all about in ‘Trains, Treks and Decaying Pig dicks.’ This included trekking with her as an informative guide, lunch, dinner and breakfast, a motorbike transport from Lai cao and staying with her and her family in a traditional village shack amongst the rice fields. We walked over 20 km in the two days.
There is good shopping in the local markets particularly for minority clothing, blankets etc.