Sa Pa District is located in Lào Cai Province, north-west Vietnam, and 380 km north-west of Hanoi, near to the boundary with China. The Hoàng Liên Son range of mountains overshadows the district, which is at the eastern edge of the Himalayas. This range involves Vietnam's highest mountain, Fan Si Pan, at a height of 3143 m above sea level. The town of Sa Pa lies at an altitude of about 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level. The climate is fair and rainy in summer (May—August), and foggy and cold with uneven snowfalls in winter.
Sa Pa is a calm mountain town and home to a great variety of ethnic minority individuals. The total populace of 36,000 comprises mostly of minority groups. Besides the Kinh (Viet) people (15%) there are majorly 5 ethnic groups in Sapa: Hmong 52%, Dao 25%, Tay 5%, Giay 2% and a small number of Xa Pho. Estimated 7,000 people live in Sapa, the other 36,000 being spread in small communes all over the district.
Most of the ethnic minority people work their land on sloping terraces since the wide majority of the land is mountainous. Their main foods are corn and rice. Rice, by its very nature of being a labour-intensive crop, makes the everyday fight for survival prime. The special climate in Sapa has a key influence on the ethnic lesser groups who live in the region. With sub-tropical summers, temperate winters and 160 days of mist yearly, the influence on agricultural produce and health related issues is substantial.
The geographical position of the region makes it a truly special place for several interesting animals and plants, permitting it to support numerous residents. Several very scarce or even endemic live forms have been recorded in the area.
The panorama of the Sa Pa area in large part mirrors the association between nature and the minority people. This is seen particularly in the paddy areas carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the Hoàng Liên Mountains. The captivating physical scenery which underlies this has risen from the work of the elements over thousands of years, exhausting the underlying rock. On a pure day, the imposing peak of Fan Si Pan comes into sight. The eventual major peak in the Himalayan chain, Fan Si Pan proffers a real confrontation to even the sensitive walker, the opportunity of staggering views, and a rare glance of some of the last remaining primary rain forest in Vietnam.
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Sa Pa or Sapa, is a border town and capital of Sa Pa District in Lào Cai Province in northwest Vietnam. It is one of the major market towns in the region, where various ethnic lesser groups such as Hmong, Giáy, Dao (Yao), Tay and Pho Lu live.
Sa Pa is a frontier town and capital of Sa Pa District in Lào Cai Province in northwest Vietnam. It was initially occupied by individuals we know nothing about. They abandoned in the whole valley hundreds of petroglyphs, majorly composed of lines, which professionals think date from the 15th century and stand for local cadastres. Then came the highland lesser groups of the Yao and Hmong. The town is one of the chief market ones in the region, where numerous ethnic lesser groups like Dao (Yao), Giáy, Hmong, Pho Lu, and Tay live as well as by slighter numbers of Tày and Giay. These are the four chief minority groups still living in Sa Pa district present. The Kinh did not originally colonize this greatest of Việt Nam’s valleys, which rests in the shadow of Phan-Xi-Pǎng, the highest peak in the country.
It was only when the French disembarked in highland Tonkin in the late 1880s that Sa Pa, or Chapa, as the French termed it, started to show on the national map. In the subsequent decade, the coming site of Sa Pa town began to see military celebrations as well as missionaries from the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris (MEP) visit. The French military paraded from the Red River Delta into the northern mountainous areas as part of Tonkin's ‘pacification’. In 1894-96 the boundary between Tonkin and China was officially concurred upon and the Sa Pa region, just to the south of this border, was situated under French authority. From 1891 the whole Lào Cai area, comprising Sa Pa, came under direct colonial military administration so as to restrict banditry and political opposition on the sensitive northern boundary.
The early permanent French civilian occupant landed in Sa Pa in 1909. With its appealing continental climate, health specialists trusted the site had potential. By 1912 a military sanatorium for troubling officers had been created along with a fully fledged military garrison. Then, from the 1920s onwards, numerous wealthy professionals with sufficient financial capital also had a number of private villas constructed in the vicinity.
At the termination of the Second World War a long time of conflicts started in Tonkin that was to last until 1954. In the process, almost all of the 200 or so colonial constructions in or around Sa Pa were demolished, either by Việt Minh sympathisers in the late 1940s, or, in the early 1950s by French air attacks. The broad majority of the Viet populace escaped for their lives, and the earlier town entered a prolonged sleep.
In the early 1960s, thanks to the New Economic Zones migration scheme set up by the new Socialist regime, new residents from the lowlands began to move to the area.
The short 1979 occupation of the northern frontier area by Chinese troops had not much impact on Sa Pa town, but did compel the Kinh populace out for a month.
In 1993 the last hurdle to Sa Pa's full rebirth as a famous holiday destination was raised as the decision was made to fully open the door for international travel. Sa Pa was back on the tourist track again, this time for a freshly emerging local best tourist crowd, as well as global tourists.
Sapa is currently in full economic growth, chiefly from the thousands of tourists who come each year to walk the hundreds of miles of trekking trails between and around the villages of Dao villages of Ta Van and Ta Phin.
In 2006, the Chairperson of The People's Committee of Sapa Province was chosen to The Communist Party Central Committee as the youngest ever member (born in 1973).