Hot Chocolate at Baguette & Chocolat, Sapa, Vietnam

May was our fantastic guide for the day. She is a Black Hmong woman who learnt English by speaking with tourists and has now become a guide. She brings tourists to visit her local village, and we spent the whole day with her another couple of tourists from Australia. Our day was spent walking up and down the valleys, saying hi to the local women, many of who were carrying corn. She told us all sorts of incredible families about her family, her traditions, her beliefs. She was surprised to hear that we in our own countries have many of the same challenges and joys as she does in her small village but definetly the customs are very different. She tells us how the women in the village all learn how to make clothing on New Year’s Day and then will spend a whole year making their gorgeous and intriquite outfits from scratch. A group of young women pass by us giggling. They have just come from a funeral, and May tells us that it’s customary that “Young women are usually kidnapped by the local boys after gatherings like funerals. They then keep them captive for a few days and treat them really well because at the end of the three days they ask them to marry them”.

Back in Sapa after the tour, we go to visit the other Baguette & Chocolate afterwe visited the one in Hanoi a few days earlier. This restaurant is part of a training programme working with disadvantaged youth across the country. They are trained in cooking, hospitality and tourism and the service is fantastic.

We sat outside on the terrace. The restaurant is a little away from the hustle and bustle of central Sapa, up a long staircase right off the road. It is in a beautiful grand white house with red details around the windows and doors. There is a constant stream of tourists carrying guidebooks walking through the doors. Most go indoors where the décor is crisp and white with a section where guests are asked to take off their shoes before entering. Most are busy eating are a variety of the delicious looking French pastries available to order. In a corner of the terrace a tiny kitten is jumping around his mother, looking for things to do and see.

My hot chocolate is nice and a perfecting ending to a gorgeous trip to Sapa. It is easy to drink, and I could have one every day if I lived here.

Verdict: Even a quick 48 hour trip to Sapa will make you fall in love. It is a beautiful and stunning spot. This spot is doing some really great work to support underpriveledged youth in Sapa and the service and food are good. I would recommend the hot chocolate as well.  Baguette & Chocolat, Rue Thac Bac, Sapa, Vietnam

Hot Chocolate at Sapa Rooms, Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa isn’t the easiest place to get to but it is one of those trips where the journey there is part of the whole experience. It starts with an overnight train ride which leaves Hanoi at 8.30 pm and rolls into Lao Cao at 5am.  From here you then board a bus that takes you on a windy road up into the mountains for an hour and a half to Sapa. At the start things aren’t really as scenic as you probably expected when you decided to make the trip here but as you get closer to Sapa and higher into the mountains not only does the temperature drop to a more comfortable and enjoyable level but the scenery just gets more and more stunning. Every time you turn a corner there is another view of gorgeous rice terraces which surprisingly you never get tired of.

Sapa looks a little bit like a mountain retreat. Most of the buildings have views of the beautiful green hills surrounding the town. It is a Sunday morning and all the Black Hmong have come into town to meet, buy and sell their products . The women are easy to recognize with their deep indigo clothing. There are also several Red Dao women as well who are easily recognizable with their red turbans decorated with silver coins.

After a little look around, and some noodles in the market, we make our ways to Sapa Rooms. We aren’t actually staying at Sapa Rooms tonight but at one of their sisters hotels, Hmong Mountain Retreat. The retreat which is a few km outside of the city, is a series of 5 hill top bungalows each with surprisingly comfortable beds, rammed earth walls, bamboo ceilings and palm tree thatched roofs. Each bungalow has the most stunning and peaceful view of the Muong Hoa valley. From here you can watch people tending to their rice fields, water buffalo ploughing the land, you can watch the sun rise and sunsets and fall asleep to the sound of the water flowing down the river at the bottom of the valley. I highly recommend this.

Before we got transferred to the retreat we had a hot chocolate at Sapa Rooms. Sapa Rooms is a boutique hotel with a strong community focus, working quite a bit with local ethnic minority people in the Sapa area. The restaurant has very good and well priced Vietnamese food. What I loved most about Sapa Rooms is the décor in the lobby. The area is filled with interesting pieces of art, all hand crafted by local artists. There are beautifully hand dyed and hand woven blue, red and white fabric on the pillows and gorgeous wooden furniture. The walls are a rich dark blue, green, brown and while and several interesting yellow and red lampshades hang from the ceiling. There are several very intriguing art pieces, statues and vases that I spend several moments starring at. I wanted to buy it but no one could give me any indication of where it came from or where I could get more information about it unfortunately.

We sit down and ask the staff for a hot chocolate. At that moment, most of the staff are focused on the owners dog, a huge fluffy white pillow with legs that is the attraction for the staff and the locals alike. The hot chocolate wasn’t like the other hot chocolates I have had in Vietnam. Instead it was very sweet and not very chocolatey. But I absolutely love the décor here in Sapa Rooms and for that I would come back.

Verdict: I’d come back to Sapa Rooms for the food and the atmosphere. The food and drinks (especially their interesting combinations of fruit juices) are quite nice and of course Hmong Mountain Retreat is one of those once in a lifetime (and inexpensive) treats.  Sapa Rooms, 18 Phan Xi Pang St., Sapa, Vietnam