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Published: April 14th 2009
Shortly after arriving at the ticketing office in Hanoi, we were guided to the Livitran train where we had a VIP carriage - a cabin to ourselves.
The railway lines are nowhere near as smooth as they are in Europe and it took some time for us to get to sleep with the rocking and clacking of the carriages, and some loud passengers (or staff) in the hallway outside. It seemed we had just got to sleep when knocking on the door awoke us and we were told 10 mins to go. Not a very nice way to start the day especially as it was just 0500 hours.
We found the Binh Sapa bus driver and waited in the bus until he found the other couple he was looking for and then some more time whilst he filled the other 4 seats. Buses were parked 3 to 4 deep so more waiting for a space to get out, finally we were on our way. It was still dark and we made our way through the town of Lao Cai into the mountains. The trip took about an hour, climbing all the way. One part of about 10 kms had
Thai Binh Hotel
One of the many small hotels in Sapa. this one has only 8 rooms and is run by Nam, who is a teacher and went to university in NZ.
a 1:10 incline which meant we climbed 1 km in altitude in that distance. Rags decided that a hill like that would be best tackled in the bus rather than on the bike if we come across these next week!
We were made welcome at the hotel by Nam Hong, the owner, and we had breakfast whilst waiting for the room to be vacated and cleaned. Nam, a teacher, told us a bit about the area and how he had started the hotel about 4 years ago. We met a British couple who were about to go to China and travel through to Thailand eventually. They hadn’t arranged anything but seemed quite unconcerned.
At about 0930 we moved into our room, spacious, clean and nicely decorated. There are only 8 rooms in total here and all appear to be similar.
Sapa, The Queen of the Mountains, overlooks a beautiful valley and is surrounded by mountains. Or so we are meant to believe, the mist and clouds masking most of this. The town itself is similar to many we have seen, the Saturday market being an attraction as many of the hill tribe people come to sell their
veges and wares. The Red Dzao people in their red headdresses, and the H’Mong traders make for a fascinating experience although the continual pestering of the young children trying to sell trinkets takes some getting used to.
There was an exhibition in the Tourist Information Centre where girls were given cameras to take home and they had to take a photo of some aspect of their life and write about it. This was eye-opening to both of us, making us more aware and tolerant of the young touts.
After a very ordinary meal of pork we made our way back to our hotel where we caught up with a couple of hours sleep.
Sunday 12th April
Our destination this morning was the village of CatCat, the home of the black HMong. This was an easy 3 km walk down hill.
Leaving Sapa we met another Australian family going in the same direction, Jenny, Rob and their 3 children. They were both in education in Tamworth, NSW. They had a H’Mong guide and allowed us to join them. This was worthwhile as she took us into buildings and talked about the simple lives of the people.
Climbing up some steep stairs we were led out of CatCat. Here we were met by motorcyclists keen to give us a ride back to Sapa. We were happy to walk but were eventually persuaded to ride as pillions to Sapa. This was fun but on getting off Judy burnt her leg on the exhaust which hurt for quite a while.
As it was still early, we made a toilet stop at our hotel before beginning the climb through the Ham Rong Resort to the top of the hill above Sapa, known as “Cloud Yard”. From the this point we were afforded wondrous views over Sapa.
A ”Hot Pot” was our goal for lunch today so we made our way to a restaurant opposite a square where the H’Mong people congregated. We found an excellent position to sit and view the people while we savoured our mixed ”Hot Pot” which was more than enough food for 2 people! This we washed down with a couple of beers so that by the time we returned to the hotel we were ready to do nothing more than relax with our novels.
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