The Northwest of Vietnam has long been famous for its impressive and glamorous beauty that can captivate any tourists setting foot on this landscape. Among all the picturesque destinations, there is a charming village on the side of Sapa Town that you should not miss – Cat Cat Village. This village is recommended by those who love trekking, especially in Sapa, as the most striking village in Northwestern Vietnam.
- Location: Cat Cat Village, San Sa Ho Commune, Sa Pa District, Lao Cai Province
Opening hour: 24/24 daily
Entrance fee: 50,000 VND
Parking fee: 10,000 VND/motorbike
I. Overview of Cat Cat Village
Cat Cat Village was founded in the middle of the 19th century by the local Mong ethnic. In the early 20th century, the French discovered the village and developed it as a vacation resort. The village owns a majestic waterfall whose French name is CatScat. Therefore, the village then was named after the fall (Cat Cat was deviated from CatScat).
Cat Cat Village attracts tourists not only by its unspoiled natural beauty but also by the unique cultural features of the Mong people. Besides cultivating rice on the terraced fields, the residents in this village still preserve and develop traditional crafts. Coming to Cat Cat village, you will have a chance to discover the appealing nature, the unique culture and many mouth-watering specialties of this destination.
II. Highlights of Cat Cat Village
Cat Cat Village is about 2 kilometers from Sapa Town, a famous tourist destination which is 376 kilometers from Hanoi city center. To reach the village, tourists can go by motorbike or on coach. It takes you about 5 hour to go by coach and nearly 9 hours to get to Sapa by motorbike.
Cat Cat consists of nearly 80 households of the Mong ethnic located along the stone road in the center of the village, some other scattered precariously on the mountain slope. This village is the convergence of three tortuous streams murmuring all day and night. The three streams named Tien Sa, Golden and Silver pour into an impressive waterfall called Cat Cat Fall. Si Bridge and A Lu Bridge are two chain bridges crossing the fall and also the stopping point for tourists to go sightseeing and take gorgeous photos.
2. House Architecture
The houses of Mong people in Cat Cat Village lean against the mountainside, each house is only several meters from the other. A typical house has three rooms with three horizontal trusses placed on stones. The roof and walls of the house are made of wood.
The house includes three doors; the main door is in the middle, and two other ones are on the two sides. The main door of the house is only opened on important occasions such as weddings, funerals, Tet and holidays. House of Mong people comprises a shine room, an attic floor for food-storage, a kitchen, sleeping place and guest-reception place. One thing that is unique in the houses in Cat Cat Village is the mortars run by water power.
In addition to rice cultivation, the Mong people in Cat Cat Village also preserve their traditional crafts such as weaving, knitting household appliances, carving silver and forging agricultural tools. Coming to Cat Cat Village, tourists will have a chance to visit the exhibition area of traditional handicraft products. The exclusive and meticulous items made by skillful craftsmen is the confirmation of the typical culture that has been conserved through many generations.
4. Traditional Customs
Not only that, in Cat Cat Village, the locals still maintain a variety of unique culture practices, including the custom “abducting wife”. When a boy falls in love with a girl, he will invite his friends to a party, then they will make a plan to “abduct” the girl and keep her for three days. If the girl agrees to be the boy’s wife, they will get married; if not, they will make friends and everything will be back to normal.
Coming to Cat Cat Village on the first day of the lunar new year, visitors also get a good chance to participate in a festival called Gau Tao, when people celebrate the new year and pray for blessings and happiness. Gau Tao is the largest festival of the Mong people in a year; it reflects the cultural and spiritual life of the ethnic.
III. What to Do in Cat Cat Village?
1. Coming to Cat Cat Fall
The most interesting thing you should not miss is visiting Cat Cat Fall. Water from Hoang Lien Son Mountain flows through three streams then pour into the fall like a silky ribbon of the jungle. From a distance, you can hear the buzzing of the fall, which sounds like a welcoming song of Cat Cat Village. Stopping at the bridges next to Cat Cat fall, admiring its charming and even tiptoeing on the stream banks will bring you amazing experiences.
2. Contemplating Giant Water Wheels
The giant water wheels in Cat Cat Village are made of bamboo in order to utilize water power to pound rice. Besides that main purpose, the wheels in Cat Cat Village is also a place of interest for tourists to discover. Travellers coming to this village should not miss the chance to watch the revolving wheels and listen to the creaking and murmuring sound; that is the harmony of the locals and nature.
3. Visiting a Mong’s House
The Mong’s house is called “House Presentation”. If you find an intriguing house in Cat Cat Village, don’t hesitate to ask the owners for the permission to enter their houses. You will be given an opportunity not only to discover the typical architecture in house-building of this ethnic but also to talk and listen to the stories of the local residents.
4. Discovering Local Cuisine
Coming to a new destination without having a try on the local specialties means that you have never been there. Cat Cat Village is not an exception. Corn wine is a special thing that should not be missed in Northwest Vietnam in general and Cat Cat Village in particular. This wine is made with the own recipe of the locals, containing all the taste and smell of life and nature in Cat cat Village. What would be more delightful than sitting together around a fire, sipping corn wine and enjoying mouth-watering dishes with friends and the friendly locals?
5. Shopping at Cat Cat Market
The main purpose of Cat Cat Market is to meet the demands of the locals, so the products there are sold at a fair price. The market is along the main road of the market, where you can find a wide range of goods, from foods, clothes, agricultural tools to eye-catching handicrafts and souvenirs. Bringing home some handicraft items will remind you of a memorable trip to Cat Cat Village.
6. Spending a night in Cat Cat Village
Cat Cat Village is not only attractive at daytime but there are a lot of things for you to discover at night. You can watch the sunset cresting over the imposing mountains, then hang around with friends until midnight to feel the cooling breath of the mountain and grab a hot meal at a local food stall. The doors of the Mong people are always wide-opened to welcome tourists to stay overnight.
IV. Where to Stay in Cat Cat Village?
If you are travelling in budget or on your own, staying with the locals in Cat Cat Village is the best choice. However, if you are going on a tour with your groups, you are advised to opt for a nearby homestay. A wide range of choices for homestays in the neighborhood are available with convenient services that will help you to enjoy the comfort right in the mountainous areas.
This is the list of homestays and hotels nearby Cat Cat Village that you can take into consideration:
- Cat Cat Garden Hotel
Location: 79 Fansipan, San Sa Ho Commune, Lao Cai (0.4km from Cat Cat Village)
Price: from 700,000 VND/night
- Sapa Vista Hotel
Location: 70 Fansipan, Sapa Town, Lao Cai (0.7km from Cat Cat Village)
Price: from 400,000 VND/night
- Aira Boutique Sapa Hotel & Spa
Location: 30 Hoang Lien Street, Sapa Town, Lao Cai (0.8km from Cat Cat Village)
Price: from 1,000,000 VND/night
- Sapa Green Hotel & Spa
Location: Hoang Lien Street, Sapa Town, Lao Cai (1km from Cat Cat Village)
Price: from 520,000 VND/night
- Chau Long II Hotel
Location: 24 Dong Loi Street, Sapa Town, Lao Cai (1km from Cat Cat Village)
Price: from 630,000 VND/night
- Sapa Relax Hotel & Spa
Location: 19A Dong Loi Street, Sapa Town, Lao Cai (1km from Cat Cat Village)
Price: from 670,000 VND/night
V. What and Where to Eat in Cat Cat Village?
1. What to Eat?
- Thang co (Thắng Cố)
When visiting the mountainous area in Northwestern Vietnam, especially Sapa, Thang Co is the dish that is worth-trying. In the language of the ethnic minority there, “thang co” means “meat soup”. This type of soup is made of horse meat (even beef, pork and goat meat). The broth is made of horse bone stewed for hours, added vegetables and typical spices that are founded only in this area. In the past, “thang co” was only made on special occasions, but now you can try this specialty in many local food stalls and restaurants.
- “Khang gai” steamed meat
In Cat Cat Village, the lean meat of buffalo, pig, horse or goat is mixed with spices then dried by smoke in the kitchen. Without any preservatives, the “khang gai” steam meat is kept from years to years but still retains its original taste. The steamed meat is grilled or cooked with vegetables or bamboo sprout. If you have a chance to come to Cat Cat Village, don’t forget to try “khang gai” steam meat and buy several kilograms for your family.
- Chicken blood (Tiết Canh Gà)
From North to South of Vietnam, raw blood of animals such as duck, pig or goat is not a strange thing. But chicken blood is found only in the Mong community in Cat Cat Village and Sapa. In the conception of the Mong and Dao ethnic, chicken blood is something that represents luck, and only the guests of honor will have a chance to enjoy this dish. Chicken blood is made in the same way as other types of raw blood. Although you may have a feeling of scare at first try, the delicious taste of this specialty is undeniable.
- Grilled stream fish
Fish in Sapa is quite different from fish in other places because it lives in streams at a height of nearly 2000 meters. The fish is quite small, so it is often fried or grilled to keep all the flavor. Stream fish is splinted with bamboo staff and grilled on charcoal fire until the meat turns into yellow. Grilled stream fish in Cat Cat Village is served with raw vegetables and a type of special sauce.
- Frog cooked with bamboo sprouts
Both frog and bamboo sprouts are found on the neighboring forests, so they are quite fresh with natural taste. After being rinsed with fresh water, frog meat is boiled then added spices, bamboo sprout and some other kinds of vegetables. Frog cooked with bamboo sprouts is a popular dish of the Mong people, but many tourists consider it as a must-try specialty for travellers to Cat cat Village.
2. Where to Eat?
- Cat Cat Riverside
Location: Cat Cat Village, San Sa Ho, Sapa, Lao Cai
Typical food: local specialties, babeque, street food, fast food, coffee
- Gem Valley
Location: Cat Cat Village, San Sa Ho, Sapa, Lao Cai
Typical food: local specialties, Vietnamese cuisine, Asian dishes
- Aira Restaurant & Bar
Location: 30 Hoang Lien, Aira Boutique Hotel, Sapa, Lao Cai (0.8km from Cat Cat Village)
Typical food: Vietnamese cuisine, Asian dishes
- Good Morning Vietnam
Location: 63B Fansipan Street, Sapa, Lao Cai (0.8 km from Cat Cat Village)
Typical food: Vietnamese cuisine, French food, Asian dishes
With the unique features of a northwest highland village, Cat Cat has long been an attractive destination that should not be missed by both domestic and foreign tourists when coming to Sapa Town. The beautiful nature, the traditional customs and the breath of modern life mix together in harmony on the side of Sapa town, which leaves a long-lasting impression in the eyes of all visitors.