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Trekking a touristy Cat Cat Village | Sapa Trekking: Day 1

trekking cat cat village sapa, can you hike cat cat village on your own

Trekking a touristy Cat Cat Village | Sapa Trekking: Day 1

First day of my Sapa trekking tour started with a trek to Cat Cat Village.

It was to be a three hour hike and we were told that after we were done, we could go back to our hotels and that we’d have the rest of the day free to sightsee Sapa on our own.

My first Sapa trek : Cat Cat Village ?

Okay, that wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting something more like a semi-intense hilly course which took the whole day and then we’d stay somewhere in one of the villages we ended up in. But the receptionist at tour trekking central assured me that more was to come, while not coming across as very sure himself.  Frankly, by his look, it seemed that as a “solo traveling female”, he didn’t know where to put me.

We had an English speaking Vietnamese guide, who walked us down the road, letting us stop for a quick breath of tea before we continued on.

Descending “the souvenir trail”

But on the course, I quickly determined that my  three hour hike down through Cat Cat Village to the waterfall and back was something I hardly needed a guide for. The hike is a soft trek and while the elderly couple on our tour had some difficulty walking down this cobble-stoned paved trail, I realized it can feel steep if you’re not a fit person.  And if you’re already having difficulty walking downhill,  then maybe you should consider not taking a trek at all, but sticking to the roads in town.

Cat Cat Village Sapa, trekking Cat Cat Village Sapa

Trekking Cat Cat Village Sapa

trekking Cat cat village sapa, things to know before you go

Sapa Valley in the distance

For me and the Spanish couple also on the tour, we wanted to get off the paved trail. Being on it felt like a huge of a letdown. The village felt like a staged souvenir shops. Run by hilltribe families, small houses (I think I only saw a couple) and organized crafts shops lined the walkway as mothers weaved crafts, while tending to toddlers. Stone work, wire work, textile crafts, et…

The artwork was beautiful and I know the hilltribe families need to make money to survive, but I wasn’t there for souvenir shopping. The village felt just plain inauthentic and while, some local life abounds making the trekking occasionally feel worthwhile, the overall feeling is just of it being a tourist attraction.

hilltribe family sapa valley, trekking sapa,
(Above photo & video of the event below) Family cleans a pig for a special celebration feast.

Video of local men building a home

The waterfall area has a P.A. system, which streams traditional Vietnamese music to “enhance the atmosphere”. Okay, that’s  a bit cheesy and I felt like I was entering the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but this is Vietnam. After seeing the waterfall, the hiking path continues, allowing you to trek back through the hills to the top.


For lazy hikers, you can hire a motorbike ride

If you feel too tired to return, you can hire an xe oem (motorbike taxi) to give you a lift to the top! Really?!  This is what the elderly couple on our tour did and with seniors, I get it, but this a tourist’s hike. If you can’t handle this, then you are old.

Overall, it was an easy day but I had come for a real trek…

xe oem (motorbike taxi) await at this station point to give weary trekkers a lift back to the top.

Trekking Permits & Hiking Cat Cat Village on your own

Hiking Cat Cat Village is definitely doable on your own. Just ask a local to point you in the direction of the village and you’ll see a sign letting you know you’re at the entrance.

However, unless you’re with a tour or trekking guide, you will have to pay admission tickets to enter and you’ll need to buy them in ADVANCE and not at the door. You will be disappointed  if you arrive without a permit in hand. This rule of attaining permits before trekking applies throughout all of Sapa, to any main minority village area, as well as the Radio Tower. If you plan to hike this on your own, visit the Tourist Information Center near Sapa Square to pick one up first.

entrance checkpoint: you must have tickets in advance


  1. Thoa says:

    Thanks for article! I think with different in the culture, so food is diferent. Vietnam’s food is meat and vegetable. I want to say that, eat meat is normal with vietnamese. Sorry my english is not good. But i hope you return to việt nam.:)

  2. Jimmy Cracks Capricorn says:

    My parents made my brother and I butcher live rabbits in the backyard of our upper middle class home in a big city. We were the Beverly Hillbillies, just with less millions. But red necks through and through. I hated it. i prefer to shoot and kill my meat from a distance, knifing one down on the spot is not for the faint at heart. But I do loves me some pig…!!! Thanks for keeping it reals, and I am solo traveling Ha Noi and Sapa today (fly from HCM City in couple hours) and your blog helped me. Thanks.

    • @Jimmy: Glad the blog and photos could be of help! Not sure if they’ll let you take your rifle or butcher knife along, but enjoy Vietnam! Ha ha… Sapa was my personal favorite. Actually our family used to have a farm and my grandfather used to own a pig farm. I’ve seen my share of closeup killings. Could attribute to my being mostly vegetarian these days. 😉

  3. Gray says:

    This post is not for the queasy of stomach, is it? I swear, if I had to kill my own animals to eat meat, I’d become a vegetarian instantly.

    • @Gray: Sorry- perhaps I should post a head’s up warning… Ironically, I think Korea prepared me. Though the food in Korea isn’t nearly as visually jarring, the difference was that in Vietnam, I knew what animal it was vs. “what the hell is that?!” (as in Korea). For me, the latter has been so much more scarier. But culturally, when you place these photos in the context of a mountain/minority tribe survival/lifestyle it actually feels natural. Placed in the context of a privileged western culture, where we have more options (and “middle men”) this kind of life feels primitive. But yes, there’s a few reasons why I don’t eat meat.

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