For those who are fit enough, the mountains of Sapa, in Lao Cai province, are a very exciting (and tough) choice for bike riding, both off road and on the road. But unless you have a particular taste for cold weather, you shouldn’t do it at this time of the year. At an altitude of 1,600 meters and nearing the border with China, the climate is not as warm as in other parts of the country and it can be really cold during the winter. It can even snow, sometimes.
Most of the time, it is occasional light dusts of snow, but it can also happen that the whole place is covered under a white blanket, as it happened exactly one year ago. Even locals, used to harsh weather conditions, were surprised by the thickness, between 5 and 10 cm, which forced the authorities to block some of the roads in a country not used to these conditions. Sure, it attracted some tourists, who were eager to see such an unusual event in a tropical country, but it probably caused more harm than good: crops were ruined and the weather caused losses of 4,7 million dollars in Lao Cai Province. That means many people hungry and suffering from the cold in dwellings not prepared for it and without the proper clothes in an area that is already among the poorest in Vietnam. It was beautiful, yes, but behind those stunning images, as you can see in Reds.vn, were all the people having a hard time.
If you are spending Christmas in the Northeastern mountains, it would be surprising that you get to see as much snow just one year after that snowstorm. But you can always try hard and climb (sorry, not possible by bike) Mount Fansipan, the roof of Indochina with 3,143 meters. For sure you will feel the cold, and if you get lucky you will be able to see some snow. But it will take some effort to climb to the top, at least until they open the cable car, scheduled for next September.