We arrived before the crack of dawn, and caught a ride from the train station in Lao Cai up to Sapa, about an hour drive through the mountains. We were dropped off at our hostel, and amazingly our room was ready for us! Hurrah! We snuggled in for a 3 hour nap, before hitting the town. We found a delicious $2 breakfast at a cute little restaurant with a little cat, who was quite pregnant.
The thing to do in Sapa is 'go trekking' to small tribal villages. When I hear the word "trekking" I imagine some strenuous hiking through the mountains... in other words, going on an adventure! Well, the trekking in Sapa is more like walking along paved roads than trekking. We quite easily found our way to a nearby village, following roads up and down the mountains. While the temperature is much cooler in the mountains, it was still hot enough to make us sweat (a lot!)!
Walking down to Cat-Cat town. Gorgeous scenery!
Crops are grown on terraces on the mountainside, like this rice paddy.
As this walk only took us a couple of hours, we returned to town for a cold watermelon juice (I am totally addicted... why do we not have watermelon juice in Canada???). Later that afternoon we climbed up a mountain practically right in town to get some views from on high. It was quite tiring but definitely worth it!
View of Sapa from on high. The tallest peak in Vietnam can be seen in the background (very faintly!)
Our second day in town, we got up for an early walk down the mountain roads, before heading back to the hostel for showers and to check out at noon. It was very overcast and a bit rainy that morning, and the clouds hovered low on the mountains. That afternoon, we hung out around town, trying different cafes before catching our overnight train back to Hanoi.
Dinner at a beautiful spot overlooking the valley.
I have to comment on the tribal women, who wander town and harass tourists to buy their handicrafts. You cannot go on the street without having women yell at you: "You buy from me?" "Where you from?" "You buy from me later? Promise?" And they hold you to that promise, by finding you later and harassing you again. I even had women grabbing my arms and pulling me down the street, trying to get me to buy something. Most of the time if you don't make eye contact and just nicely say "no thank you" to whatever they ask, then they will leave you alone. I did end up buying one thing from an older lady who was less aggressive than the other women.
Some tourists getting swarmed after leaving a shop. We quickly took the picture then ran away so they could not get us next!
Our train trip back to Hanoi was less than peaceful. I had a woman and her small hyperactive daughter on the bunk above me, and at about 2am, a couple got on the train and climbed into the bunk above Greg. I spent the next few hours imaging the bunks crashing down on us from all the people above and crushing us to death. Not a very relaxing night! We got back into Hanoi at dawn, and the amazing people at Serenity Hotel gave us a room (someone had checked out early, and they had not cleaned it yet) for a shower, and then gave us a free breakfast too! Excellent people. We wandered Hanoi a bit, found a used bookstore and got Greg the final Steig Larsson book, and got ready for another night train, this one south to Hue. I'll write all about Hue in the next post!