We woke up just in time to see that the sun has painted the whole sky an intense orange hue. That was our cue to jump out of bed and expend some energy, before the sun got too fierce.
With our trusty google map in hand, we headed towards Cat Cat Village to explore this popular tourist spot before the crowds swarmed it.
Cat Cat Village is nestled at the bottom of the Muong Hoa Valley, about two kilometres away from where we stayed in Sapa town. The village was formed in the 19th century by the gathering of various ethnic groups, including the Black Hmong and the Dao tribes, who were living in the mountainous areas of Northern Vietnam. They started cultivating rice and corn in terraced fields, while weaving fabric and creating handicrafts to earn a living. Now, Cat Cat Village has become a little ethnic village museum, where we can observe how the tribes live and work, learn how they weave their handicrafts, and appreciate their traditional practices.
The way to Cat Cat brought us down some very steep inclines along narrow windy roads. We were quite glad to be heading down instead of up.
Several twists and turns later, we were welcomed by the prominent arched entrance beckoning us to enter the Cat Cat tourism area.
Just a few steps in was a ticket booth, where we handed over 70,000 dong in exchange for an entrance ticket and a paper map that marked out all the points of interest in the village. The money goes towards helping the local families who have opened their homes for visitors to explore.
After flashing our tickets at the village entrance, we headed down a tiny alley through an endless series of steps winding through rows of tourist shops. Many shops were still closed, while some were just preparing to open.
There were, however, some early birds who already had all their wares displayed out front.
While slowly and carefully navigating the steps, we took our time to marvel at the valley views that presented before us at every turn.
With the Cat Cat Waterfall as our beacon, we followed the signs and made our way towards it.
An energetic dog suddenly appeared out of nowhere and insisted on being our guide. He kept running back and forth, hurrying us along because we were walking so slowly.
Soon, he was joined by his friend, and the two of them showed us the way to the waterfall.
Soon enough, the narrow alley opened up, and we were presented with a picturesque view of the heart of the village.
Several bridges criss-crossed the river and allowed us to wander around the village and explore every corner.
Crossing the first bridge led us to the Cat Cat Waterfall (also known as the Tien Sa Waterfall), the main attraction of the village.
The water that gushes down the waterfall into the river is used by the villagers to their advantage. Bamboo water wheels use the water power to grind rice, corn and other grain.
Rice mortars are also used to harness water energy for pounding rice.
Corn wine and rice wine are popular in Sapa. To make wine, corn is boiled in hot water for a long time until the kernels break off the cob. After cooling, the kernels are then mixed with yeast and fermented. The fermentation process can last up to six days. The wine is sometimes referred to as “happy water.”
Several exhibition houses are open for display, and we could walk right in and get a glimpse of the residents’ traditional lifestyle. Some of the houses have on display the machinery that are used for weaving, and the linen weaving process is somewhat explained.
After exploring the area for a bit, we found ourselves a little lost and weren’t sure of the way back. Climbing up a long long flight of stairs led us nowhere.
After some searching, we finally noticed the “Come back” sign, beckoning us to follow.
The way back brought us up more flights of stairs…
…through beautiful valley views…
…across picturesque bridges…
…before we found our way back to the main road leading back to town.
Having experienced the steep descent from Sapa town to Cat Cat Village early that morning, we were not looking forward to making the climb back up. Hence, we hailed the next taxi that came barreling our way, and were driven in comfort back to our hotel just in time to stuff ourselves silly at the breakfast buffet.