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Ruth's Travel Blog

Sapa - a slip or a trip you'd slide all the way down

VIETNAM | Monday, 18 November 2013 | Views [825]

Having had a fairly unexciting few days in Hanoi (which, by the way is lovely... I just didn't do anything) I headed to Sapa in the far north with a few of the same group I was with in Cambodia.
We caught a sleeper train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, which is a border town on the Vietnam - China border. It was exciting getting a night train, as I am sick and fed up of bussing it!! There was four of us in one cabin and another two of us in another four bed a couple doors along.
Anyhooo, from Lao Cai we were taken to Sapa, which is about 1500m above sea level. Originally a French hill station but now a tourist centre for trekking and experiencing different minority groups up here in the clouds and the rice terraces. The rice terraces on the road that went up, up and up were fantastic.
We had breakfast and stuck out bags in storage, then off we headed. We walked for around three or four hours, mostly downhill to start with along firstly the road, and then on small paths between rice terraces.
It is SO beautiful up here... Stunning views in every directions. Literally every single INCH of the steep steep hillside is made into rice terraces, I have no idea how these crazy little village ladies even get up there to pick their rice or whatever.
We stopped every few minutes for a viewpoint/breather/ waiting for our group to recollect etc. one stop we were surrounded by about 15 girls -I'd say from the age of 5-12 - selling cotton bracelets. "You buy from meeeee, you buy from meeeeee, you buy from meeeeee" so many of them saying it in their little musical voices it was like a song!
We were so starving by lunch that we just ordered more and more food. It was included in our tour so we made the most of it. We were freezing as well so I drank a ton of tea. Ok, not freezing, but the lowest temperature I've felt since I got to Asia back in April maybe 22/23degrees... And it's about 13 here... At a push. You can see your breath, and I'm wearing LONG sleeves! SOCKS!! And... A scarf!! (Gunna freeze back in the uk...)
We walked all day, 12km in total. Aching like crazy. Up up up and down and up and down and through bamboo forests (where's the panda?) and over rice paddies and jumping over little rivers and gulleys. Eventually we arrived at our homestay for the night in a small village right up in the clouds, in the words of Dr. Seuss "a slip or a trip and you'd slide all the way down". We ate like kings and queens that night, and drank rice wine, which is disgusting. Bloody cold, but thick. Thick blankets so slept really well. We sat round the fire in the middle of the kitchen and got to know the owners of the home. Our homestay lady was so lovely and had some gorgeous little kids. I showed her some pictures of Scotland from a photobook that I carry with me. She had some absolutely gorgeous jewellery which I was  admiring and asked her where I could buy it. She said the men in the village make it for the ladies in the village, that you can buy the bracelets in Sapa but why are bad quality and the metal changes colour really quickly. I asked where I could get good ones and she let me buy one of hers right off her!, it is beautiful and I am so happy with it. Even more special and will remind me of Pang (my homestay lady) forever. 
In the morning we headed off and had the same type of walk as the day before, but a lot more up and down and less going along the hillside. It was only 5km, doesn't sound much but was harder and more tiring as we were aching from the day before.
I fell twice in a paddy field, taking town one of our little lady guides with me who had a baby on her back!! Poor lady, she landed on her knees though so baby wasn't hurt. I was covered toes to bum both sides in thick stinking mud! EVENTUALLY we made it to lunch. I have never been so happy to get to the top of a hill... It had been a long morning and a very long climb up to the top where we were having lunch! We got a lift back to Sapa town and had hot showers and lots of coffee and found a coffee shop for wifi and spent the afternoon there chilling out and keeping warm!
Bad news was that we had more trekking this morning! Two of my group have food poisoning, and the rest of us were exhausted. I did the downhill, to the village, the waterfall and the dancing show, but I took advantage of the annoying motorbike men and got a lift back up as I wasn't feeling great, and wanted to figure out my next move in Vietnam. Now, we are all sat in a cozy coffee shop. Okay it's not cozy, nowhere has heating so we have to drink coffee, tea, or hot chocolate ... whatever you want that's hot all day!! There are several different languages spoken within Sapa, I think around nine. There are lots of minority villages which are really interesting. All the ladies I have met have navy blue finger nails. I didn't understand why but all of their clothes are the same colour. They die all their clothes in big barrels of indigo... Explains it all!
Next move... Sleeper train tonight. Halong bay in a couple days time. Will upload pictures when able!!

 

Tags: foggy, freezing, homestay, mud, rice terraces, sapa, vietnam

 

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