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Our own entourage

VIETNAM | Sunday, 26 October 2008 | Views [608]

the trekking group-(left to right)dutch, dutch, german, random village women, fin, fin and german,

the trekking group-(left to right)dutch, dutch, german, random village women, fin, fin and german,

Took the night train from Hanoi and arrived into Lao Cai, about 1.5 hours away from Sapa the final destination for a overnight trek and homestay. After a cramped minibus ride to Sapa we arrived at the hotel handling our tour and were met by 20 local H'Mong women at the entance. Among them were the tour guides who I noticed were 100% young women between the ages of 18-22. Zi later told me that 98% of the tourguides were women because the men did not leave the village nor learn english. I confirmed along the trek only seeing two men the entire time as guides. Our group of seven, Mark/Tamara-Dutch, Mario/Suzi-German, Eva/Tusi-Finnish and me met Zi prounced "pillow" our spunky guide for the trek. As we left to begin the trek we were joined by our own entourage of about 6-7 women from the village. It was fun at first but grew tiring as the trek went on because they were always trying to sell things to you at each stop.

We trekked for a few hours through the rain which unfortunately masked most of the surrounding mountains but you could still see the hundreds of rice terraces dotting the hillsides. Everything was green with the rain but also muddy. We stopped for lunch at Zi's village with our entourage and other trekking groups to enjoy typical Vietnamese delights then we were off to our next village which would be our stop for the night. At the village we met "Kim" our host for the evening. She took us to her house which was actually pretty big, I think it slept probably 16 people. It was early afternoon so we sat around relaxing and talkng with each other. Kim also had a pool table with some local boys playing when we arrived. They also had tv, karaoke and hot water which was welcome for a shower to wash off the mud. After a dinner cooked over a wood burning fire complete with french fries(I was served those everywhere for some reason) and homemade rice wine (very strong)I channeled Jessica (closet poolshark) and schooled Zi at pool. Actually she was not very good and I ended up knocking the eight ball in! We then began some mean rounds of Uno complete with German rules then a Dutch card game and a Finnish card game. Towards the end another group joined us but they were drunk and rowdy which did not last long because we wanted to get some sleep so they left.

The next morning we awoke to sun and a breakfast of pancakes and bananas. It was a beautiful morning of sun and clouds but you could also see more of the mountain tops now and it added to the beauty of the valley. I don't think my pictures do it justice but you get the idea.  We headed off for more trekking passing waterfalls and pissy water buffalos along the way. Our entourage joined us again for the day and we stopped for lunch at another village by a nice river. The group had all bought things from the villagers the night before so were getting tired more entourage. After lunch we hiked up to the road and caught a minibus back to Sapa. It was too short of trek for most of us but we all had to get back to Sapa for dinner and a shower before catching the night train. I have mixed feelings about our trekking entourage. As it did grow very tiring always having to say no or tell someone where you were from, it also helps the villagers maintain much of their way of life and when you buy directly from them it goes back to the village not to a store in Hanoi.

AFter returning to the hotel and before dinner I walked around Sapa for a while, it has a nice mountain town vibe and the temperature to match. It was a welcome respite from teh heat of Hanoi and Saigon. I tried to change my train ticket so I could stay a night in Sapa but the agent told me the weekends are too busy to change. So I joined the others for our minibus trip back to Lao Cai. After getting our train tickets from an agent in Lao Cai we boarded a much nicer train then the first, and I shared the berth with a french couple and a Vietnamese mother and boy. I had a good nights sleep and arrived in Hanoi at 5:00am. The rest will be in the Hanoi story. Sapa was a beautiful mountain getaway and the change to experience a different way of life then for most and amazing scenery makes this a must do trip while in Vietnam.

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