Sa Pa is a frontier town and capital of Sa Pa District in theLao Cai province in northwest Vietnam. It is one of the main market towns in the area, where many ethnic minority groups such as H'mong, Dao and Tay live. Vietnamese: Sapa Population: 138,622 (2003)
Sa Pa was first inhabited by highland minorities of the Hmong and Yao groups, as well as by smaller numbers of Tày and Giay, these being the four main minority groups still present in Sa Pa district today. The Kinh (lowland Vietnamese) never originally colonised this highest of Vi?t Nam’s valleys, which lies in the shadow of Phan-Xi-Pang (Fansipan, 3143 meters), the highest peak in the country.
It was only when the French debarked in highland Tonkin in the late 1880s that Sa Pa, or Chapa as the French called it, began to appear on the national map. In the following decade, the future site of Sa Pa town started to see military parties as well as missionaries from the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris (MEP) visit. The French military marched from the Red River Delta into the northern mountainous regions as part of Tonkin’s ‘pacification’.
The climate of Hoang Lien Nature Reserve is unique to Vietnam. It is highly seasonal with a subtropical climate in the summer and a temperate climate during the winter. Mean annual temperature for Sa Pa town is 15.4°C, with a maximum of 29.4°C and a minimum of 1°C. The warmest months are July and August, and the coldest months are December and January. Snow falls in some years on the highest peaks.
In common with the rest of northern Vietnam, Hoang Lien Nature Reserve experiences a marked wet season from May to September, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in July and August. Mean annual rainfall is 2,763 mm, with a high of 4,023mm and a low of 2,064mm. Humidity ranges from 75 to 91 percent with a yearly mean of 86 percent.
Climate varies considerably within the nature reserve. The prevalent wind direction for most of the year is west to east, leading to cloud formation on the upper slopes of the Fansipan massif. These high-altitude areas are covered by cloud most days of the year and have very high humidity. Cloud also penetrates into the valleys but these areas are usually less humid than the mountain slopes. In the extreme east of the nature reserve, around Ban Ho village, mean temperatures are considerably higher due to the lower altitude of these areas.
Sapa is home to a wealth of colorful, diverse hill tribes, who have steadfastly resisted integration into Vietnamese society and modern life. In fact, the hill tribes, including the Hmong, Dao (Dzao), Tay, Day (Dzay) and Xa Pho, comprise the majority of inhabitants in the area, outnumbering the Vietnamese (Kinh) who prefer the warmer low lands. (Source: Wikipedia)
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