Published: July 15th 2005April 13th 2005
The steppes of Sapa
Carved into the sides of mountains were rice fields everywhere you looked in this Northwestern city.
Operation Flying Hmong
A short afternoon in Hanoi was all that I had before I was off to experience my first Vietnamese train ride. This ride would be on the overnighter that would dump me just short of the Chinese border in a border town called Lao Cai, which lay 60km downhill from Sapa. The funny thing is, the distance from Hanoi to Lau Cai is almost 300km, which is just a few kilometers more than the distance from San Diego to Los Angeles. However, Amtrak gets me there in 3 hours while the Soviet Express, as I’ve termed this decrepit hunk of steel and iron, got me there in just under 13 hours! Fast is not an adjective one would ever attempt to use when describing this monstrosity.
At the train station in Hanoi, a mass of humanity moved along like a herd of cattle through a narrow little gate where ladies in uniform punched holes in your ticket and gave you evil stares. From there, it was a quick hike through what seemed like a parking lot of worn down monstrosity’s in desperate need for retirement. Again, the herd mentality was the only reason anyone, viet or tourist,
The Hmong women often trek for miles in their traditional dress carrying baskets filled with fertilizer for the rice fields. And by fertilizer, I mean buffalo chocolate. And by chocolate, I mean shit.
knew where to go. I thought to myself, "just follow and don’t ask any questions...you wouldn’t even know what to say anyway because you left your dictionary in your other bag back at the hotel, dumbass."
Ok, the number “2” is written on the paper ticket and the train cars are going down in number...this must be right. 5, 4, 3, 2...Car #2, this must be it! Phew! Ok, now what? Luckily there was a girl on the train who seemed to know what she was doing and directed me to a room down the cramped hallway. Inside the room sat two vietnamese men who were seemingly stunned into a paralyzed silence as I entered. You see, over here, I’m quite the imposing figure. Standing at a gigantic 5’9”, 175 lbs, I’m a mammoth in comparison to these stick figures. A wooly mammoth I might add as my full beard often caused a wild commotion. So into the lap of luxury I went with my two new bunk mates. I dropped my bag on the lower bunk, looked around the spacious 7’ x 7’ room containing a total of 4 bunks and nothing else and wondered, was this the train
Arrived at this beautiful waterfall by motorbike. To my surprise, there were several Vietnamese tourists here on vacation taking a bunch of pictures.
to Auschwitz or SaPa? Even the window was covered by some metal plating! I must say, they were kind enough to leave us each a bottle of water and a piece of bread for the long ride. Pink Floyd quickly came to mind..."If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding” started ringing in my ears as I gradually got comfortable in my coffin for the long ride to Poland. With an abrupt jolt that nearly threw the man from the top bunk off to the ground, the trip commenced. Ok, time to writing in the journal and catching some much needed sleep as the legend of Stella was still fresh in my mind. “Thwack!” The door was flown open and a uniformed attendant, looking stern as ever barked a few words. I looked at the guy across from me as he would surely know what she wanted. Hoping it wasn’t more than just a ticket check, I started fumbling through my pockets. Then I noticed him point to me and thought, “this cannot be good.” After she inspected my ticket and gave me a scowl, it meant only one thing; I was in the wrong cell. I
Lord of the Rings
A gorgeous backdrop that was captured during my ride with Steve through a land that looked like something out of The Lord or the Rings movies.
thought, “great, now I don’t have a room to sleep in because someone else has my bed and it’s ‘too bad, so sad’ for whitey.” Maybe I get to sleep with the animals at the end of the train. As I followed this asian frauline down the hall, I just hoped there would be a room with an open bed in it. With some serious power, she swung open another door where a French couple and a vietnamese man looked as if they had just met the grim reaper. Little did they know, they HAD!! haha. The lower bunk was vacant so I dove right on in. At this point, I was in no mood to talk to anyone, so with a quick hello, I got settled in and drifted off to sleep with the help of the music on my mp3 player.
Daylight twinkled ever so slightly through the slits in the metal plated window. Ok, we have to be close I thought. Two minutes later, a long, spine chilling, screech let us know we had arrived in Lao Cai. I just wanted badly to get out of that train so I gathered my things and got to
Sapa Market (Cho)
This is where all the vendors hang around to sell their goods to tourists and other locals. It's where I tried Pho Bo and was a bit disappointed by the lack of fixins.
the closest exit. Another sea of humanity gathered and converged at the gates to leave the train yard. “Hmmm, this was different,” I thought. “Are they checking tickets in order to EXIT this place? Oh man, where is my ticket?” After 5 minutes of ravaging through my bag, I came up with nothing...no ticket! “Maybe it’s in the bed I slept in? Shoot I’m going to miss the bus to SaPa if I goall the way back to that damn train…ah, screw it...I gotta get it or I'll be stuck in this place”. After not finding the ticket anywhere in the room, I returned to the gate and asked them in my best english, “Do I really need a ticket to leave?” In return, they gave me their best blank stare.
Ok, one more time through the bag and I eventually found the small paper ticket in the place where I looked first…gotta love that. Ok, got my ticket, now where’s that attendant checking the tickets? Ohhhh, they left and now I can just walk on through. Lovely...thanks for the unnecessary panic, heart attack, and thoughts of being imprisoned in a vietnamese rail yard...all before 6am.
Ok, now on a
Sapa Market2 (Cho)
This is where I witnessed how they kill their food. As I walked along I noticed a plastic bag moving around on the floor. Trapped inside was the main ingredient for duck soup.
minibus up to SaPa...$25,000 dong for a one-hour trip ascending through some of the most beautiful mountainside scenery I’ve ever seen. Not a bad deal since 25,000 is only about $1.75. The people in this area have mastered the art of not letting the altitude and very difficult terrain dictate what crops they can grow or the livelihood they can make for themselves. I guess they have to make do with what they got. For as far as your eye can see were these man made steps, cut deep into the mountainside. Each step, colored in either healthy lush greens or a watery mud brown, containing either this season's or next season's crops of rice and corn.
As the morning sun rose from behind the mountains, and just above the thin layer of mist that hugged each green peak, it left one thinking heaven was just around the corner. This statement almost turned out to be true as after few short moments of enjoying the scenery, our minibus almost went over the side of a rather bottomless cliff when an ornery water buffalo got spooked. Our good ole driver almost decided that the buffalo's life was more important than the
The view from Mountain View hotel. This location offered up spectacular views and sunsets on a daily basis.
12 passenger’s lives aboard his bus.
Along the approach to SaPa, you could occasionally see the very short Hmong women walking along the roadside with handmade baskets on their backs. Hmong is the name for the ethnic minority groups of people who live in this area. They have inhabited NW Vietnam for centuries and are descendants of the Chinese. They are also despised by many of the Vietnamese and in the area and the government and considered lower forms of life. The Hmong wear a unique outfit all year round, which certainly adds to the character and flavor of this region. How they wear these thick, velvety, black colored garments in such heat is beyond me.
Surprisingly, the moment you get off of your mini-bus you are greeted with, “you buy for me?? You buy one blanket for me...to help me?” from about 5 little girls, all dressed up in what looks like unbreathable, heavy, winter clothes. So, thanks to tourism they know a little bit of English...enough to sell their crafts, like most of the Vietnamese do...right?... wrong! These girls could speak English better than some people I know in the United States. It was pretty shocking to have
Mountain View 2
Another amazing view from the Mountain View Hotel.
a conversation with them, and at the same time, somewhat pleasing. The drawback to this familiarity was that they knew exactly how to lay on the guilt trips for not buying from them.
I had two days here in SaPa and then it was back to Hanoi via the Auschwitz Express. So what should I do? The hotels and travel agents all have signs saying Trekking SaPa. I guess I should see what this means. I know that Mt. Fansipan, tallest peak in SE Asia, is real close by so maybe I would try my luck? Hmmm, it was a bit late in the day for this, so I went with a mild 8km trek through some of the stepped rice fields to see how the Hmong live in their villages. The two villages we set off to see were categorized as the Black Hmong and Red Hmong villages and were given these names by the color of the traditional hats/headdress they wear on their heads.
The trip consisted of only an older British couple, the vietnamese tour guide and myself, so I thought it should be a decent time. Although, the start time of 11:30am was probably a big
Distinguished from the Black Hmong by their red headpiece, these women were some of the best saleswomen I've encountered. They made saying no to buying close to impossible.
mistake because it was around 90 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. As you may or may not know, rice fields, even in the mountains are not known to have any shade, so after a while, it took its toll on all of us. The trek itself wasn’t all that interesting or difficult, but it produced some good memories. We visited a village family’s home that was nothing more than a few wooden sticks and some sheet metal tied together that housed not only their family, but their animal’s family. Also, the British couple lost their balance and fell into the “buffalo chocolate” a few times. Now THAT was priceless...unfortunate, but still priceless. Another significant highlight were the cute, village kids, covered from head to toe in dirt, running around without a care in the world...or their bottoms for that matter. More and more, I have found that the young kids in this part of the world are what make it so special. From playing simple games with them to showing them pictures, nothing has been more satisfying on this trip than finding a way to make one of these kids smile. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. They absolutely cannot be from Australia and they cannot have the name Stella, a name that will be forever burned into my memory.
Following a long day in the heat, it was time to unwind on the patio of the Mountain View hotel. The name speaks volumes in this case because the view was nothing short of spectacular. The clouds even decided to form a few shapes in the sky for all of us lucky onlookers. At one point, one couldn’t mistake their similarity to an impressionist or cartoonists view of several ocean waves with the curved arches reaching to a point. One person said they even looked like the jagged points on the back of a dragon. After a few unimpressive tries at the local brew, Bia Lau Cai, it was just about the time to meet up with Thanh, the tour guide from earlier today, to show me nightlife of SaPa. Famous for its Hmong “Love Market,” I was particularly interested in seeing this ritual first hand. Apparently, the Hmong men and women go to the town center where they engage in a kind of courtship. I liken this event to a Jr. High dance where the boys are on one side and the girls on the other. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch much of it as the increase in tourism has made them a bit shy and this ritual is now mostly done in private or late at night. In a few years it will probably move to bars and clubs or perhaps over the internet.
We sampled some of the vietnamese cuisine that was lined up alongside the market and then it was off to good ole karaoke, a vietnamese past time. I think this has to do with their love for singing music wherever, whenever. It’s amazing how many people here just bust out in song anywhere they want. From within internet shops, to walking along the street, or even riding their motorbikes, it is very common to hear someone singing in public for their own enjoyment in Vietnam.
After an embarrassing hour of karaoke, a few Tiger Beers, and some beef jerky doused in lime juice, it was time to head back to the hotel. Just before I got to the hotel, I found a little watering hole down a side street. Inside were 8 girls, some shooting pool, others playing cards. This isn’t a very typical scene here in Vietnam because pool is a “man’s game” and most girls of their height just shouldn’t be in bars, especially this late. Well, these were Hmong girls, none of them more than 4'8" tall and still dressed in their traditional outfits. Soon after I made the first challenge, I came to know these girls simply as, "the cheaters." Now, I'm no great player at pool, except in recent history when I went undefeated in one particular night at a place in San Diego called "The Library" against a certain someone who should be reading this, but these girls were freakin' pool sharks. Blatant distractions while shooting, covering up the pockets with their hands, and making up rules were just a few of their tactics. Here's a new one, which I later found out was common in Australia (of course) and perhaps Europe, if you miss the ball you are shooting for, the other team or player gets two consecutive shots....what a crock!
It was like playing against teenage kids, but they had a bit more attitude, like they owned the joint. I guess this gave them as many “privileges” to cheat as they wanted to and they certainly took advantage of that.
--After reading over this, I would assume you are wondering if I beat them or if lost a "man's game" (in Vietnam) to a bunch of girls. Let’s just say 2 out of 3 ain't bad considering the conditions. --
They were also experts at a card game that was too fast for me to catch on to. I've seen it played before, but I just couldn't hang with them. After a few more drinks I was off to bed to rest up for my second day in SaPa which would prove to be the most interesting...
It was a rough start to the second and final day here in SaPa. I had to get up early to make the most of it, but must have drunk a bit more than I thought last night. I jumped on the internet and made a few calls back to the States using an internet phone. It is a cheaper form of phone call, but one must suffer through a terrible echo so it's tough to hold a good back and forth conversation with someone. Cheaper meaning 100,000 dong for 10 minutes, which is roughly $6.25. Every form of communication was more expensive in these parts though because it's still very behind the times. Sometimes, however, that is a very good thing.
Since I didn't have much of a plan and didn't like the tours that were offered, I chose to make my own tour. It would be me, a map, and a motorbike. After making this decision, I quickly found the town market to slurp down a bowl of pho bo (beef noodle soup) and still wasn't satisfied by its taste. "I thought the north was known for this dish? Ugh!...no fixin's, again, and the broth wasn't all that great, either." Hanoi will have one last chance to prove it to me when I arrive there tomorrow morning.
Ok, bargained the "moto, moto," motobike man down to $4 for the day. One of the Hmong girls named Vu, from the night before, was standing around just hanging out and I told her we were going for a ride today. Without hesitation, she said ok and jumped on the back. It is typical that these girls travel with tourists, as they are sometimes the best tour guides. They work for a lot less than the tours organized through the hotels and they know the place like the back of their hands since they all live there. Some of them walk two hours a day into town with a basket full of blankets or whatever they are selling. Strong little women, they are. Yesterday, I had also observed them walking several miles with baskets filled of buffalo chocolate, which is a precious resource used to fertilize their rice paddies. I think this is where the expression, "heavy shit" came from.
So, off we went with a primitive map that only showed half of where we were going. First stop, Silver Waterfalls. The road taken to these falls is nothing short of sketchy and shouldn't even be called a road. It was a single lane path barely wide enough for a VW GTI (the greatest care on earth). It contained pot holes, stray rocks, sand mounds, and often, it wasn't even paved in some critical places, like those blind turns with no guard rails to protect you from a 500 meter death drop. All that and the shoulder of the road, a safe-haven for when ultra large trucks come barreling down from in front or behind you, was filled with gravel and large, grapefruit sized rocks. This might be a good time for my Mom to stop reading. Surprisingly, the trip there wasn't all that treacherous. Most of it was uphill which wasn't too strenuous. Since my passenger, Vu, weighed all of 85 lbs, I barely noticed her except for an occasional poke to the ribs to remind me she was still there. "Ow, quit it!"
When we arrived to the falls, I jumped off and climbed to up to the top where there was a viewing bridge. There were several vientamese tourists there taking pictures and making strange poses. I've noticed that there are more and more Vietnamese being tourists in their own country...this, I think, is a good thing. Vu stayed behind and struck up conversation with some guy who I thought was a tourist. Perhaps she met him before? When I got back from taking some pictures of the waterfall, I found Vu and two other Hmong girls sitting and eating with this guy. So, I introduced myself and found out his name was Steve, from England, and that he had been living in Vietnam for over a year. He was also fluent in Vietnamese, which is a huge bonus. He and Vu suggested we take a trip to Binh Lu, which was about 30km away, all of it downhill. Since I didn't have anything else better to do, I found nothing wrong with taking this trip to a place I'd never heard of, with a complete stranger, in a foreign country, where I can't speak the language, down an unsafe road, without any way to communicate to the outside world in case of emergency, while on a poorly designed, weak-engined, chinese motorbike. Actually, that just ran through my head now...I thought absolutely nothing of it at the time. Off we went down a very long descent through what looked like a scene from Lord of the Rings. Towering mountains all surrounded us as we glided down several hundred switchbacks with our engines turned off and the wind in our faces. Occasionally, a large truck come flying up the hill or around one of those death turns. It wasn't much of a hassle to get over to the side, but in some places I could see it being a bit tough due to the large number of loose rocks. After about 15 minutes of smooth sailing, we approached an interesting situation. A smaller, lighter truck was coming up at us. This wasn't unusual, but he was hauling ass as he approached and didn’t slow down. Typically, they will slow down a bit as they lay on their obnoxious sounding horns. So, what happened next is something I will always remember. Disaster struck as I had gradually veered off to the right “shoulder” (the place where there were many loose rocks). I broke the first rule of riding a bike and or skiing, which is to never look straight down in front of you. At this moment, all I saw was a skinny, feeble, front tire being no match for the large, jagged, loose rocks scattered about. In a split second, Vu and I were airborne and in another, sitting up in a haze of confusion. My first thought was, "is she ok?" I’ve never fallen off a motorbike and I’ve always been cautious when I had a passenger because my life was in their hands. For a second, I thought all was well when I saw Vu sit up, but then those hopes vanished in a matter of seconds when she gradually leaned to her side clutching her knee. “Oh god, please let this little girl, who trusted me to keep her safe, be ok.” I could see the pain on her face and as I tried to console her and check on the bike, Steve and the other girls had already turned around and were coming to our aid. A few other passersby stopped to see what happened, but I waved them along. Things looked to be getting better when Steve took a look at Vu. Much like you do when kids fall down and begin to cry because they are scared, we tried to make Vu think it wasn’t that bad of a fall. She was limping around at the time and eventually seemed ok with only a few scratches on her knee. A huge sigh of relief flowed through my body at that moment. She was a tough girl. Now how about that piece o crap bike? I had just sent it careening into piles of rocks…surely it should have some damage. Wheels, still good…engine?…started…lights, mirrors, farings, all good! Yes! Wait…what’s with this footbrake?...Bent to hell!! Still usable though….lets keep going! After I apologized to Vu repeatedly and promised it would never happen again, she got back on. What a trooper…except I know that all trust was now out the door.
After what felt like an eternity, mostly caused by my concern for sunburn, my added cautiousness, and the unending switchback turns, we pulled over for a break. One of the girls felt nauseous and needed to rest. This gave me a chance to reconcile with Vu and regain some trust. As we kept cruising through some more beautiful scenery, on down past rice paddies and kids riding atop their family's water buffalo, we finally made it to a small home/restaurant. We got out of the blazing sun and sat down to eat lunch. The three girls were more interested in watching some Vietnamese soap opera, so Steve and I had a good conversation while sharing some apple/plumb rice wine. Tasted more like whisky to me and I was in need of something cold instead of strong. It did manage to take the edge off though. I was still thinking of the crash and my flying Hmong passenger.
As we finished up eating, a minibus showed up and out spilled about a dozen tourists. Steve was in shock to see them as it was by chance that we had found this place, let alone a tourist bus knowing about it. As they clambered through and finally sat down at a table across the way, one of them broke the non-western sized plastic chair and fell right on his arse. Amusing at first, but I think Steve and I mentally shook our heads in embarrassment or shame at this event.
Eventually Steve struck up convo with them and managed to snag a fan that the storeowner turned on for them, but not for us (weak). They turned out to be Aussie veterans from the Vietnam War who came back to see some of their old battlegrounds. One of them was a tall man with a Mr. Clean styled haircut. He reminded me of Col. Kurtz…perhaps my mission to terminate with extreme prejudice would be over sooner than I thought. On a side note, I have actually run into this group several times along my travels, one time back in Hanoi, once in Hue, twice in Hoi An, and once in Danang. Insane coincidence!
It was time to head back, but first a quick stop to get my brake pedal repaired. We found a little shop that seemed to have a garbage dump as a front lawn. After much commotion and about 5 minutes, two men figured out a way to straighten the bent brake pedal to almost original condition. A cheap fix costing me 10,000 dong and we were off. I would have definitely gotten ripped off if it weren’t for Steve. I remember him saying that this guy’s sister probably makes 15,000dong per day working in the rice fields all day. He hammered for about 5 minutes and deserved nothing more than 10,000dong.
So off we went on the long haul up through the mountains from whence we came. We passed the children riding water buffalo again and even a man clutching tonight’s dinner by the tail...a large guinea pig, which was still wriggling for its life, was on its way to provide the man’s family a scrumptious dinner. About 15 minutes into the uphill climb, I realized that I couldn’t shift my rice burner higher than 2nd gear or it would just about come to a stop. Steve’s Russian made Minsk was a bit more powerful, but also had its problems. It decided to overheat and so we stopped for a few minutes to let it cool down. We were off for another 10 minutes or so and I saw Steve pull over again. Perhaps it needed to cool down a bit more. Nope, this time he was out of gas! Troi oi! (Oh my god!) Hmmm, this was not good. By this time, I thought we were cutting it close to my departure time from SaPa and I was a bit nervous about missing the bus to the train station. However, there was no way I was leaving Steve and the two girls there alone. Steve said he needed to find another Minsk in order to siphon the gas from one tank to another. He couldn’t do it with an ordinary motorbike because the gas tanks were different and we didn’t have any rubber tubing. The chances of another Minsk passing us were slim and the chances of anyone with rubber tubing were even slimmer. So, eventually, Steve suggested he take my bike back to where we were in Binh Lu, buy some petro and come back. That was probably the only option we had so off he went with Vu. I stayed with the two girls and took some National Geographic worthy pictures of them while we waited. I also showed them some of my pictures from my Halong Bay trip and from San Diego. Following this, I made about 100 attempts to hit a large boulder, that was about 70 yards down the cliff, with rocks that I found on the road. It was just out of reach from my weak, rotator-cuff-less, arm but I managed to hit it two or three times. The satisfaction of hitting this boulder far surpassed the added injury I was imposing on my shoulder.
Finally, Steve and Vu came back with a few small water bottles of gas. Phew! Now it was time to haul ass back to SaPa. We did pretty well all the way back and I was driving really cautiously through the turns. Vu fell asleep on the way back, which added to the strain on my right arm and shoulder on the long down hill part of the ride as we approached SaPa. When we reached town, my right arm was at its breaking point and Vu decides to poke me in the ribs for fun. This, to say the least, was bad timing on her part. We pulled up to the motorbike guy who rented me the piece of garbage and I prayed he wouldn’t notice some small scratches on the side. He was pointing at his watch and I knew what he meant so I was prepared to give him another dollar for my lateness. I gave him another dollar in the hopes to glaze over his eyes and render them blind to damages I incurred to his motorbike. It seemed to have worked and I quickly entered the hotel lobby.
Steve showed up a few minutes later and it was off to the patio for some well needed liquid hydration in the form of beer. We spoke for a long time while Vu interrupted us on countless occasions. Although her English was pretty good, her manners were severely lacking. I have been told that this is the reason it is hard to teach them. Their attention span is just so small.
Later, Steve and I headed up to another restaurant and ordered some food. However, I became aware that I would miss my bus, so I had to bolt before our food arrived. I said farewell to Steve and ran on down to my hotel. Along the way, I was accosted by several Hmong girls who had been trying to sell me things for the two days I had been there. One of them was Sau, the other Ming. Both had been counting on me to come through with a purchase. Unfortunately for them, I was in desperate need to make my bus. When I got to the hotel, I found out that I missed the bus and things were looking bleak. Then, I ran into Thanh, the tour guide from day before. He ran down a minibus that was traveling to Lau Cai and stopped it for me. There was one seat left and thankfully, they let me in. As I boarded, Sau attacked me with endless guilt trips so I gave in and grabbed two pillowcases and gave her just 50K. At first this pleased her, but when she realized I had two instead of one pillowcase, she came to the window of the bus and showed her frustration.
As the bus pulled away, I just breathed a sigh of relief that the potential for trouble was in the past and I was now heading for a decent night’s sleep on the overnight train back to Hanoi.
As I boarded the Soviet Express, which is actually called, The Reunification Express, I entered my room and sitting there was a Vietnamese family who gave off a good vibe. We both broke into laughter as we knew the communication barrier was in full force. With the parents, were two of the cutest girls I’ve ever seen. Linh, aged 10, and Linh aged 7 were on the top bunk with big smiles of curiosity about their new American roommate. Momma-san and Pappa-san were on the bottom bunk with smiles as well. I just felt like this was going to be a good trip home and, thankfully, my instincts were right on.
The first thing I did was whip out my pictures from home. This always works as a good ice breaker. They loved looking at the places I had been and pictures of my friends from home. Since one of them was vietnamese, they asked me many questions about her. Next thing I did was find out where they lived and where they were going. Nhin Binh was their home and that is where they were heading. After I ran out of things to show them, I started writing in my journal. My left handedness is also a big attraction as there are not so many of us over hear. Pappa-san left and then came back with a few more loaves of bread, a few containers of Vinamilk (condensed milk) and a six pack of Bia Hanoi. Immediately, he offered all three items to me and my empty stomach graciously accepted. We dipped the bread in the condensed milk and it was a sweet combination, sugar and a load of carbs right before bed. Little did I know that he was going to insist that I drink all three of his beers before going to sleep. So, as the train started rolling, we began the feast, just Pappa-san and myself. The girls were looking on from the top bunk, while Mamma-san was trying to get some shut eye on the same bunk that Pappa was sitting on. Later, he asked me if I could sleep on the top bunk while he took the bottom. I had no problem with this and began heading up top when he stopped me. We were to finish our beers first, and then I would move up there. I thought to myself, “this was a good man.” It took a while to get down all of the bread and the three beers. I said “yo” (cheers in vietnamese, but it really means finish what’s left in your can) a few times and downed them as fast as I could. He kept up with me, too. I wanted to sleep and felt bad about keeping mamma from sleeping. I couldn’t think of a more pleasant way to wrap up two very memorable days in SaPa. I don’t think the rest of my time in Vietnam will compare. Then again, there is always Hue, the land of a thousand ao dai. =)
PS - the photos in this travelblog are on loan from other sources since all of my Sapa photos where lost during my travels.