Beaming Red Dao women crowd the front steps of Sapa's gothic, grey stone church and pull strips of colorful embroidered fabric from their woven rattan backpacks. Their huge, red headdresses bob as they call to passers-by. Ethnic minority people in various styles of traditional dress -indigo tunics and leggings, elaborate pleated skirts, silver-studded jackets - stroll up from the valley, all bound for Sapa's bustling weekend market. They carry bundles of produce and lead pack-ponies through the village's steep streets.
Tucked high in Vietnam's remote northern mountains, the former French military outpost of Sapa offers some of Vietnam's most colorful experiences. The views are breath taking. Vietnarn's highest peak, the 3,143-metre Mount Fansipan, looms overhead, while the surrounding valleys feature terraced rice paddies and blazing green fields cut by fast-flowing streams. Layer upon layer of green ridges fade into the distance, edged by sharp, rocky peaks.
Visitors to this isolated village can browse in the traditional market, then hike into the valleys and explore the surrounding ethnic minority villages. Here, people live as they have for centuries, raising water buffalo and pot-bellied pigs, cultivating paddy, corn and cassava, and weaving their colorful clothing. Come to these northern mountains and you'll feel the thrill of discovery. This is one of the rare corners of the world where people's traditions continue to flourish and nature reigns supreme.