Visiting Cat Cat Village

Trekking through lush rice terraces, surrounded by nature, encountering local tribal women in traditional dress - this is what I expected from Cat Cat Village.  Oh how wrong I was! 

Wondering if they wash these hats

That isn’t to say that Cat Cat Village isn’t worth a visit.  In fact, it’s probably a ‘must do’ for anyone visiting Sapa. If you don’t have time to travel further out, this will be your one chance to see a ‘local’ village.  If you are spending longer in town, there are only a few attractions and this is one of them! 

Right - so what should I expect from Cat Cat? 

A very commercialised visit to a ‘local’ village.  It doesn’t feel authentic at all (this starts when you arrive only to be told to go to a ticket office and pay for entrance). 

It works out to about 3 USD.  It's worth it.

Other blogs have pointed out that this is to support the locals who live there.  At one point I think they opened their houses, but all seemed shut when we were visiting.  It’s almost like paying for entrance to a theme park...kinda like main street in Disneyland.  

But I’ve seen loads of photos of locals? 

Those NatGeo style pictures of local women dressed in vibrant traditional costumes?  Sorry to break it to you, but they’re mostly tourists.  Near the entrance of the village you will see shops that rent traditional costumes to visitors.  These are the people that you’re seeing! 

On that note, I’d highly recommend dressing up.  The costumes are about 150k to rent and they have many sizes.  It also makes taking photos in the village far more fun!  If you’re worried about cultural appropriation, don’t be.  It isn’t a thing in Asia. 

The whole town is pretty much one big Instagram opportunity.

Well at least I’ll get to trek through some beautiful scenery… 

I’ve seen/heard some people talk about ‘trekking’ in Cat Cat Village.  Honestly, I don’t know why they’d say this.  It’s entirely paved and there isn’t an opportunity to walk through the rice fields.  If you want to do that, you need to head further out, ideally with a guide.   

Cat Cat village consists of a hill that you walk down (many steps!) with a river and waterfall at the bottom.  On a clear day you can see the rice fields, but that’s as 'trekky' as it gets.

Less epic than I thought it would be

You’ve made it sound awful.  How is this a must see?

A lot of people who visit Sapa do it as a side trip from Hanoi.  If you’re only there for a day or two, Cat Cat Village is a nice compact ‘experience’.  You get to see the countryside, interact with locals (albeit in less vibrant ‘authentic’ clothes than the tourists) and buy handicrafts, all in one convenient location.  

To do all of this anywhere else and in a more authentic fashion, you’d need at least three days and two nights (a post on doing things that way later).  Cat Cat takes less than half a day.  

Okay I’m (semi) convinced.  How do I get there? 

Assuming that you're already in Sapa: there are 2 options, walking and taking a taxi/motorbike.

You can easily get a taxi/motorbike from the town and the journey should be 70k-100k VND (3-4 USD).  As always, agree a price with your driver before you go! 

Walking takes about 30mins and you can just follow Google Maps.  Again, I’ve seen it referred to as a ‘trek’ and I wouldn’t agree with that.  It’s all done on paved (by Vietnamese standards) roads.  

The view from the road between Sapa and Cat Cat Village

We walked there and then taxied back, if I did it again I would just taxi both ways.  The walk isn’t particularly interesting, we saw some nice cafes/shops but wanted to get to the village so didn’t stop.  If you’re looking for a slower day out then feel free to go this way. 

However, I should point out that I really wouldn’t recommend walking back.  You have to climb a lot of stairs to get out of the village (more on this later) and following it up with a 1km uphill journey won’t be fun.  

If you aren't in Sapa, you can get a bus (6hrs) or a train (8hrs) from Hanoi. 

When should I go? 

Visit in the morning - because of the way the village faces, the lighting for photos will be best if you visit before noon.  Additionally, it’s much cooler in the morning! 

Season wise - I went in late October which was pretty hazy, I’m told that June-August is best if you want clear skies. 

How long should I spend there? 

We searched everywhere for this!  If you want to take lots of photos or do some shopping, I’d say at least 4 hours.  Once you’re in the village, there is still a lot of walking to do, so even if you just want to see the sites you’d need around 2 hours. 

It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings

What is there to do? 

So the main attraction of Cat Cat Village is supposedly the local houses.  These are the homes of the local ethnic minority tribes and the entrance fee you pay goes to those who have opened their homes.  Personally, I was super uncomfortable with this, as it seemed almost like a human zoo.  As such, we didn’t go in.  

There are shops lining the stairs at the beginning of the village, if you haven’t done any shopping yet, this is a great place to pick things up.  Once you reach the river, the shops do seem more authentic, and you can often watch the products being crafted.  However, if you do this, expect to be pressured into buying something! 

Obviously use your common sense, if it's been raining lots, don't go in the river!

The main activity for us was photo taking - we’d rented outfits so spent most of the time bouncing between the different set pieces they have put up for this exact reason.  We also enjoyed cooling off in the river and getting drinks at the cafes. 

Okay - got it.  Any other tips? 

Yes!  Go down to the river without being distracted by the shops/places for taking photos.  This is because the climb back up is difficult in the heat.  Stopping off to do things you noticed on the way down makes the journey back up far less painful.  

TL;DR - It's worth vising Cat Cat Village and takes about 3 hours.  It's very commercialised and not much of a trek. 

If you have any questions about Cat Cat or visiting Sapa leave a comment or message me on Instagram (@glassdoorsss). 


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