Sapa is a collection of small, ethnic-minority villages set in a backdrop of stunning, mist-shrouded valleys. It takes about 16 hours to reach by bus, but we took the sleeper train, which whittles the journey down to about eight hours. We arrived in Lao Cai, just 2km from the Chinese border, at four in the morning. We staggered obediently to the bus, and were whisked 36km to Sapa itself. Our journey took in mountains and valleys; some of the peaks poked triumphantly through the early morning mist. At times, we drove through the mist itself, unable to see more than a few feet in front of the bus.