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May 29th 2009
Published: May 31st 2009
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1: Sapa local's market 59 secs
2: Homestay in Sapa 61 secs
A quick hello to our friends and family.... since we last wrote from India we have decided to join the ranks of the unemployed and spend some time exploring the exciting country of Vietnam....

The hilly region around Sapa near the Chinese border was our first destination that we set out for from Hanoi. The overnight train delivered relative comfort for the 7 hour journey. Arriving at 5am, we enjoyed a steaming bowl of pho before we joined up with a fun, international group made up of five others. The cool air of Sapa was a welcome relief after Hanoi's muggy heat and we set off with our local tribal guides for our first day's 8 mile trek into the hills. The area's nickname as the 'swiss alps of Vietnam' was well deserved providing an ever changing display of high altitude trees and thousands, if not millions, of butterflies that fluttered around us through the hills. The various tribes of hill people have successfully adapted to the steep terrain here and transformed what were unusable grades into series of cascading steps that grow rice, corn, and other harvests. With some persuading handlers water buffalo could be seen trudging through the pools of water plowing the mud for upcoming rice season. Locals were quick to return a smile or wave from the field or farm house and children tried their hand at their parent's duties of guiding livestock, pulling rice or stoking fires.
Our brightly dressed female guides knew this land well and took every opportunity to point out interesting sights and photo ops. They would also share their personal life with us and inquire into our lives back home as family is certainly the most important aspect of life here. We arrived fairly winded and muddy after our 5 1/2 hours of trail climbing and breathtaking scenery at our village among the Black H'mongs. The homestay cabin was perched high on the ridge overlooking the self sustaining farm of crops, livestock and the river valley below. The We grabbed a quick chilly shower and settled in on the rustic home's porch overlooking the village and valley below. It was difficult to think of a better place for the couple hours leading up to dinner with the smell of fresh herbs and spices marinating our dinner and some much deserved Tiger beer in hand...we watched the sun descend behind the distant peaks. The plates of food were trained in one after another and followed by thimble sized toasts of homemade rice wine we poured from an innocent looking water bottle. Conversation and toasts went well into the evening hours before retreating to our humble cabin and mosquito netted beds.

Day 2 started with homemade pineapple pancakes and only got better. We continued along the ridge which provided waterfalls, bamboo forests, and some very large mud bogs to navigate. Locals could be seen every step of the way engaging in the backbreaking work of rice patties and livestock fields.

Day 3's rain started as sheets of mist and ended in a jungle worthy pour. Our guide led us into a small village near the valley's river where we tried smoked water buffalo meat which was a big hit for my taste buds. The nearby children kept a close eye on us and were quick to accept a treat or gift. Returning to Sapa, we packed up for our train ride back to Hanoi. So far this has been the most interesting part of the trip and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

Additional photos below
Photos: 58, Displayed: 24


31st May 2009

What an adventure
Hi Kids, Thanks for sending/sharing your blog. Great photos. Looks like another fantastic adventure the two of you are on. The little kids are adorable. Looking forward to learning the chicken dance from a real expert. Kits is jealous....but I assured her you loved her better than the cute kitten in the pic. Love and miss you bunches. Great job getting this out to everyone. xoxo
31st May 2009

Todd: You're at it again???
I give thanks to the gods everyday that I have friends like you. You're travels, tales of the road and beautiful images are keeping us amused, entertained and hopeful that we can, some day, follow in your tracks at a time when we just can't get away. Thanks y'all! Stay safe.
1st June 2009

you guys look like you are having a blast-finally you have rain on a vacation and we all have sun! Vietnam isn't anywhere I had thought of visiting, but your pictures are amazing and inviting (as always!) keep up the fun travels, so I may continue to live vicariously through you! love ya
1st June 2009

Thanks for sharing!
Hey folks, It's Mark (Jen King's finance). Great to hear from you! Looks like you're having an awesome time. Vietnam is one of the places that I've always wanted to visit...the Alps like you're doing and then the beaches! Thanks so much for sharing your adventures. Look forward to reconnecting when you get back and hearing more of your stories! Safe travels!
1st June 2009

You two look like you are having a blast! Take me with you next time! Be safe and keep the updates coming...Seattle is boring! Except for the 75 degrees + we have had the past two weeks straight! ;-) xo
1st June 2009

You are doin' it right! Have a blast!
1st June 2009

How fun!
Again, loving you guys and your adventures. I'm pretty sure I could live on pho. Wonder if it's served with mint & jalapenos like it is here in Phx? Have a great rest of your trip and keep the blogs coming!
2nd June 2009

It's good to hear from you... "World Travelers"
2nd June 2009

land of the happy people!
who is taking the pictures and who is writing the blog? the pictures are vivid and the writing, expressive. they must have some form of dope in those hills and would love for your next narrative to be heavily "influenced" for my amusement
2nd June 2009

Thanks for sharing
Dang! Is this what unemployment looks like??? Then sign me up!! You both have great tans, thin bodies (probably due to the lack of greasy US food and transportation) smile. I miss you guys. Sorry I wasn't able to come for lunch but when Quinton gets back from Iraq, we will invite you two down. You've got to see the new addition to the family. LOL Well until then, please take care and I LOVE YOU both!!
2nd June 2009

You guys are my heros... seriously! So green with envy! Stay safe!
3rd June 2009

You guys Rock!!
Keep sending these to me guys.. I love seeing all the amazing pic's.. Enjoy your travels... Your not missing much back in the states.. ;o) Keep on Keepn' on
5th June 2009

Keep the great pictures and details coming, we love it! Glad you guys are enjoying yourselves. The rest of us poor souls are exploring the concrete jungle every day from 8-5. what fun!
15th June 2009

Kitty envy
Sorry Shane and Emo, I don't know how but Kits saw the picture of the other kitty and has proceeded to rip your blankets to shreds :)

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