Two tourist destinations in Việt Nam feature in a top ten list of places to visit in South East Asia, according to a top travel website in the UK.
Travel publisher Rough Guides rates both Sa Pa and Hội An as among the hottest places to visit in the whole region.
Sa Pa comes in at number six while Hội An is ranked 10th in the list published last month.
Rough Guides said of Sa Pa: “Việt Nam die-hards will know this former hill station is where to come for a whiff of heart-shifting Southeast Asian scenery.
“Established by the French in the 1920s as a summer escape from the north’s blasting heat, its popularity has ballooned in recent years, but the adventures remain time-worn.
“Hike to tiered rice terraces in the plunging Mường Hoa valley, overnight in mist-wrapped hills, or ascend Fan Si Pan Mount, the highest peak in Indochina and an unbeatable experience in the smoky light of dawn.”
Known by those who have visited as "the town in the clouds", tourists lucky enough to enjoy Sa Pa are left speechless by the area’s majestic nature.
The beautiful Mường Hoa valley and Hoàng Liên Sơn mountain range are two areas that stand out from the rest.
But the place that really is head and shoulders than the rest is the "Roof of Indochina". This is Fansipan, the highest peak in the area. Visitors can take a cable car to the mountain and ride through the clouds as they make their way to the top.
Views out of the window along the ride reveal green patches of primeval forests meandering in the valley of Mường Hòa and Hoàng Liên Sơn mountain range.
In particular, with Fansipan cable car on Fansipan peak and the Mường Hoa mountain climbing train departing from the town centre, visitors have more interesting means of transport to see the panorama of the town and the mountain from the high above the world.
Winding around the mountain roads with motorbikes, even walking to see the village, watching the mountains of Sa Pa is also a way of enjoying the town and surrounding areas.
Villages such as Tả Van, Tả Phìn, Lao Chải welcome visitors with a typical high-altitude life-style, and offer tourists a rare glimpse into the peaceful homes.
The quiet atmosphere is only really interrupted by the sounds or temple bells. High in the skies you can find the A Di Đà Buddha statue - the highest bronze Buddha statue in Việt Nam standing tall at 21.5m.
For more spiritual enlightenment there’s an opportunity to pray for peace and happiness to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Quan Thế Âm Bồ Tát).
A chance for a moment of peace and reflection before continuing on your journey to the top the mountain. Some 3.143m above sea level to be exact.
And no matter what time of year you visit, you will encounter the festivities of colorful Northwest. The winter festival runs until January 20 followed be the the “Northwest flower festival” will take place in early February.
But all this climbing is surely enough to work up an appetite and there is hardly a better place around to have your fill.
Enjoy the full flavor of the highlands with traditional dishes of the Northwest locality such as Sa Pa sausage, Bắc Hà noodle soup, smoked buffalo meat (trâu gác bếp), sticky rice all cooked by ethnic people in the highlands market area at Fansipan cable car station.
Sa Pa has something for everyone’s tastes. If luxury is what you desire, the recently constructed Hotel de la Coupole, MGallery by Sofitel is the place to stay.
This five-star hotel is designed by Bill Bensley and located in the centre of town, offering a splendid resort which is more like a palace than a hotel, with the distinctive culture of French imprints and typical Northwest tradition woven into architectural and interior details.
The beautiful view from the balcony of the rooms to the mountains of Hoàng Liên also turned this hotel into a new "hot" resort in Sa Pa when the new year is approaching.
A perfect place to welcome in the new year occasion, or just a perfect place all year round.