We set off in a group of 5 (rather than the agency advertised 3!) for a 2 day trek through the hills and villages around Sapa. he scenery around Sapa is mountainous, and all of the lower slopes are cultivated into tiered rice paddies. These are amazing feats of human labour, so much so that you forget they are man made and begin to think them part of the natural countryside. Along the trail is a constant sprinkling of huts and small settlements, and an even more even sprinkling of people trying to sell you stuff. The trekking itself is easy, and manageable by anyone with two legs. If you find this hard you should seriously get your health checked. Which again is very dissapointing when I booked up for a 'strenous' programme with the travel agency. I will be swearing at them when I get back to Hanoi, and it really does show why independant travel is better than a tour. Live and learn.
The real highlight of the day though was the opportunity to stay with a local family, something that may have been harder to arrange without going through a guide. I helped to prepare our dinner,
a range of 5 dishes all prepared in one pan. I was amazed at the simplicity of the whole thing, and the flavour was amazing. MSG really was very prevalent tho, so I really must read up and find out whether it really is bad for you. If its not so bad, it really is a wonder ingredient. With dinner came free rice wine. This 'wine' is actually far more like a spirit (think Sake with a much harsher taste) - like a bad vodka. We drank it sitting around a table and someone shouts a percentage - normally 100%! - which is the amount that everyone has to drink. It is this method of drinking which helped us all to sleep well, and helped out guide to make a long distance phone call to the porcelain god!
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