Sapa Sojourn

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October 14th 2010
Published: October 15th 2010
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Arriving into Hanoi after Halong was a bit of a wake up call and unfortunately for Carrie I was feeling very much under the weather so she ventured out on her own on friday to explore the city and do some shopping. She came back to the room at about lunch time hot and bothered but triumphantly clutching more than one bag of goodies. I on the other hand spent the day in bed watching cable tv in the airconditioned room - nice.

Friday night we were booked on the night train to Sapa, I was a little uncertain about the train having heard a few horror stories. However we were both pleasantly surprised by the standard of the cabin and we luckily were sharing with an older australian gentleman and his tour guide who spoke excellent english. After an off and on nights sleep (I was still unwell) we arrived in Lao Cai (Sapa is 1hr bus ride away) at about 6am. I was grumpy from being sick and Carrie just didn't sleep well so we were less than impressed by the touts crowding us as we disembarked yelling at us to go with them. This one guy seemed to think he had us even though the only word I had said to him was NO. Anyway he quoted us 60,000 dong to get to Sapa which I knew was too much and told him so. Luckily we met up with our friends from the train again and the tour guide told us it should be 30,000 so we followed her to another bus where she got us on for 40,000. The tout then proceeded to having a slinging match with her telling her she shouldn't interfere because he could have got us to pay the 60! She was appalled that this guy was so blatantly trying to rip people off, it doesn't do much for the reputation of the Vietnamese tourist industry.

After that debarcle we were finally on our way to Sapa, an hour and 5000 sharp bends later we arrived. The temperature in Sapa was so different from Hanoi, being up in the mountains it was lovely and cool. After walking around a little we found a nice hotel on a cute street and collapsed into an exhausted sleep. We didn't do much that first day as I was still feeling off but just walking the streets you can see why Sapa is so popular, its very cute and there are women dressed in full hilltribe garb combing the streets trying to sell you things. That night there was a village wide black out and unfortunately our hotel was too small to have their own generator so the place was in darkness, this made for an interesting trip back to the room after dinner. Our room was on the floor below the lobby and as soon as you went down the stairs any small amount of light from the street was gone and it was utterly black! We literally had to walk with our hands on the wall so we didnt fall down the stairs and then had to count the door handles till we got to ours! It was pretty funny, not sure how you would have gone if you were elderly or had children but we just had a good laugh.

The next morning we were up bright and early, ready for our day trip to the Bac Ha markets. These markets operate each sunday and people from the hilltribes all around Bac Ha come down to buy, sell and trade in everything from plastic shoes to livestock. Again it was a long and windy trip but once there the markets were great! The hilltribes are just so colourful, especially the Flower Hmong, they are the brightest and the ones you can see in the pics. One of the things I wanted to buy was a hilltribe skirt, however everywhere I went they were wrap around and therefore too small for my fatty western body. Eventually at the last stall I thought I saw a skirt that I liked and may fit me, well it didn't but the fun we had with the stallholder dressing me up was hilarious! She insisted on putting the skirt on and when she realised there was a big gap at the back she proceeded to cover my bottom with an apron! Carrie thought it was hilarious and in between fits of laughter took many photos, none of which are here as I really do look ridiculous! After telling the woman that no this skirt does not fit I made the mistake of saying I liked the baby carriers they had hanging up. Of course this promted a full demonstration on how to use the carrier, I felt so guilty that they had spent so much time with me that I bought the baby carrier, you know for the baby I DON'T have!

After lunch we left the markets and headed out to a local Hmong Village. Although by now I have visited quite a few hilltribe villages this one was intersting because it was harvet time and we got to see how they harvest the rice and beat the grain out of the stalks. After a long drive back to Sapa enjoyed a lovely dinner in a gorgeous little restaurant before heading to bed, this time with electricity!

Our last day in Sapa was spent wandering the markets and shops, I finally found a skirt to fit (elastic waist lol) and relaxing in the local cafe's. Sometimes these kind of days are my favourite while travelling. I love just wandering between cafe's and restaurants and people watching, I think alot of the time you can learn more about a place by doing that than traipsing around after a tour guide all day. That night it was on the train again heading back to Hanoi for Carrie's last day and night.

We spent the day wandering around the Old Quarter and the lake, dodging traffic and chaos as the build up to the big 1000 years celebration got closer and closer. Wednesday morning I said goodbye to Carrie and headed off to my new hotel, looking forward to a few days of chillaxin before Terrie arrived on Sunday.

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