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November 7th 2010
Published: December 20th 2012
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6th Nov: The moto that took me to the bus depot dropped me off there really early. So I had about an hour to kill before the bus left. It was boring just sitting there doing nowt. The bus arrived and I got on. The beds were funny as they were doubles. Well I would be getting up close to some random during the night. There was a German couple on the bus, so I got chatting to them a bit. Nobody was sitting next to me, so I had a nice double bed to myself. I nicked my non-existent partners bedding too. I made myself very comfortable.

We stopped around midnight at some ghetto service station. The toilets didn't have doors and were unisex, urgh! I waited everyone else had been and it was empty before I went for a wee. We stayed there for about half an hour before getting back on the bus. Back on the bus I got comfortable in bed. Somewhere along the way I picked up not one bedmate, but two. Sod that! I wasn't gonna be spooning two random Vietnamese blokes. Luckily for me they just sat on the bed for a couple of hours and then left.

7th Nov: We arrived early in the morning about six or seven. I went for breakfast with the German couple at a guesthouse near where the bus dropped us off. Then we went to find some accomodation. We went to the Lonely Planet pick Pinnochio. It was okay. I got a room and dropped my stuff off and then headed out for a wander around the town.

My first stop was for some coffee. Sapa is a cute little town, it has an alpine village feel about it. The town is filled with Hmong women in their traditional garb, trying to sell you stuff. After wandering around the town, I decided to head to Cat Cat village, which is nearby. The walk down starts off fairly easy on the road as it winds its way down to the bottom of the valley. There is a little cafe, where I stopped and bought a drink before continuing. The next part was a lot steeper and a lot of steps. I definitely wasn't looking forward to coming back up. Along the way there are workshops and stalls set up where the Hmong sell the goods that they make. I bought a lovely pair of earrings (however when I tried to put them in at home, the holes in my ears aren't big enough to put the metal through, grr!). Walking through the village is kind of like stepping back in time.

At the bottom of the village there is a small waterfall. I took some pics of it and had a rest. Then I started the huge climb back up the hill. I had many breaks along the way. When I got the halfway point, I stopped at the cafe and had a drink. I sat by the window taking in the view. The cafe had no proper windows so there was quite a breeze blowing through. When I was finished my drink the cafe owner offered to drive me up to the main part of town for a dollar, so I accepted. It was nice knowing I didn't have to walk back up! She dropped me near the market, so I had a look around that and bought some tat.

Back at the hotel I booked a trek for the following day and then to take the train back to Hanoi that night. There wasn't too much to do in Sapa, as I had missed the morning markets and I am too lazy and unfit to climb the big mountain nearby. Also it's cold and I didn't really bring any cold weather clothes with me on the trip and I wasn't going to buy any for the sake of a couple of days. I went to a nice restaurant for dinner that night. I can't remember the food, but the restaurant had a log fire and it kept spitting bits of logs across the restaurant. Scary but funny as they luckily didn't hit anyone Back at the hotel I couldn't get my door to close and lock properly. I didn't feel very safe.

8th Nov: I had a crappy night's sleep because of the door not closing and locking properly. I was up early and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Before getting picked up to do the hike. The German couple I had met on the sleeper bus were on the hike, too. They were staying over to do the homestay. But it wasn't really a home stay as you were in a hostel. It's a shame as it would of been cool to stay with a real family.

We set off from town and joined up with all the other hikers at the top of the hill to take some photos before we started our descent. There were hundreds of people doing the same hike. Well that's a slight exaggeration, but there were a lot. Also a lot of the Hmong women join you on the walk and help you and try to chat to you. The hike through the fields and the rice terraces was lovely. We spotted a snake winding its way up a tree. The trek was too difficult, although there were a couple of tough spots.

We arrived at the restaurant, where we would be having lunch. It was on the edge of the Hmong village that we would be visiting. Lunch was nothing to write home about. A packet of instant noodles and then we had to pay for drinks on top. I totally sypathised with one woman who complained about it. Especially as other people in the restaurant we getting decent meals. Also the Hmong women started on the hard sell when we arrive. They got all their goods out and showed us them. I really wanted to buy something of the wife that had walked down with me as she has helped me out on some of the tougher parts of the trek, but she didn't have anything that caught my eye. I really wanted one of the funky neon pink scarves that they wear on their head, but nobody had any for sale.

After lunch we took a look around the village, we saw one woman doing her weaving and also a contraption, that I think was to grind rice. then we visited a local school. The Hmong people in Vietnam aren't treated like real people as they supported the Americans in the Vietnam War, so live in poverty and are unable to get passports to leave and make a better life for themselves else where. The school we visited was funded by donations made by the public. The school was lovely, warm, and welcoming, a really nice place to be educated. The school hadn't been open for that long. It's a shame that these kids will be educated and then forced to remain in the village working the land. I never saw any Hmong men around. It appears that the women do all the work selling stuff. Maybe the men tend to the fields and then get to relax?

Anyway we walked through the rest of the village stopping in a couple of shops along the way. There was also this old wife begging and we were under strict instructions not to give her any money. Fine by me! When we got to the end of the village I left the people, who were staying the night in the homestay and crossed the river to a small cafe / shop on the other side. There we were picked up and driven back to the main town. The drive didn't take long at all.

Back in the main town I had some time to kill so I went to a bakery there called Baguette and Chocolate and hada coffee and a slice of cake. The cafe helps underprivileged teens and young adults get a good start in life by giving them jobs and training. I also boughe some goodies for the train. I think I had edinner back at the hotel, before a minibus turned up to drive me and some others to the train station in Lao Cai. The drive took about an hour and we couldn't see a thing as it was pitch black outside. We got dropped at some cafe across the road from the train station and I had a coffee, while we waited to get our train tickets.

The train station itself was like a war zone. There were a million people crammed into the little building. Then when the trains arrived to go back to Hanoi there was a stampede of people. I got on my train and found my carridge after a balls up on the ticket that had the wrong number on and being talked down to by an obnoxious Vietnamese tour guide. I could of happily twatted him. I was sharing my cabin with an Ozzie bloke, his Vietnamese wife and his Kiwi best mate. We had a good chat, and then managed a few hours sleep. I was impressed with the train it was really nice.

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