Most people who come to Sapa are here to join a trek and maybe even a homestay for a night or two. But how do you pick a trek from one of the hundreds that are available? Not to mention the very convincing ladies that meet buses as they arrive in town. Well, why not pick a company that not only offers fantastic trekking in Sapa and homestays but is also a social enterprise that helps the local indigenous communities?
Why choose Sapa O’Chau?
Sapa O’Chau is a social enterprise and Vietnam’s first minority-run tour operator. The organisation has different opportunities for trekking in Sapa, homestays, a cafe and a Hmong handicraft store.
These projects raise the funds needed to give a home to 35 high school aged children from ethnic minority families in the surrounding area. Before Sapa O’Chau, these children had to walk 10 km each way to school each day.
But, thanks to Sapa O’Chau, these children now have accommodation close to the local school as well as language lessons. As these kids are not native Vietnamese speakers, Sapa O’Chau also provides language tutors to ensure they don’t fall behind in school.
Plus, news just in: Sapa O’Chau is a finalist for the World Tourism Tomorrow Awards 2016, and has been longlisted for the World Responsible Tourism Award 2015.
What is trekking in Sapa and a homestay actually like?
I can tell you first hand that these treks are great! I did the 2 days, 1 night Red Dao Homestay Trek that combines about 24 km of medium difficulty trekking in Sapa with a local homestay. You pass through local villages, where you can watch farmers planting and harvesting rice as well as pigs, ducks and chickens all playing in the mud. There are a few steep hills that feel a lot steeper in the hot sun but the views from the top are truly spectacular – rice terraces and villages as far as the eye can see.
That evening we stayed with a local Red Dao family. Sapa O’Chau has worked with the local community to help them convert their homes into homestays for guests. The Red Dao are known for their expertise with herbal medicines and remedies and we were lucky enough to soak our weary bodies in a hot herbal bath before falling soundly asleep.
One of the things that I never get used to when trekking is the ever-present rooster wake up call as dawn strikes. I’m so glad I don’t have a rooster at home! We then did some off-path trekking through some wild undergrowth that needed to be trimmed with a machete as we walked. This was one of my favourite parts of the hike – with ferns hitting us from all angles and mud sloshing up our legs, I really felt like I was exploring the great outdoors. All too soon we arrived at Trung Chai where we were met by a shuttle to take us back to Sapa.
Unlike many other tours, Sapa O’Chau does just let you experience communities, they actually ARE the local community.
I love it! How do I book?
Booking could not be easier, simply follow this link to the Visit.Org website where you can search for travel experiences around the world, including this trek with Sapa O’Chau. There you can request trek add-on’s if you would like to extend your hike to four days, or find out more about how to get to Sapa.
Who are Visit.Org?
Based in NYC and founded in early 2015, visit.org is a technology platform for curated travel experiences offered by nonprofits around the globe. They offer nonprofits an innovative, sustainable way to raise funds and awareness for their causes while helping thousands of users to register and book tours through their platform.
I have been a Visit.Org Ambassador since late-2015 and it was in this role that I came across Sapa O’Chau. Whenever I travel I always want to get involved with the local community as much as I can, however, sometimes this can be hard, especially if I’m short on time. Visit.org helps you quickly find tours and activities that benefit local communities and allow you to participate in unique experiences.
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Please note that if you book through the link above, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This will not increase or alter your trek price in any way. If you would not like this to happen, please contact me for additional information. My affiliation with Visit.Org in no way has impacted my representation of the organisation in this article. It is only because I found them to be so amazing that I decided to be an Ambassador for their organisation and include them on Grassroots Nomad. Thank you!