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Published: January 14th 2015
I don’t like the cold. I really don’t like the cold. Anybody who knows me well enough knows that I really don’t! But I do really, really, really like Sapa. This place is beautiful and mystical.
This morning the alarm woke us as 7.15am to start our last day in Sapa. We had chosen today to do our trek and it really was not the best day to choose. We should have gone yesterday but today is our last day and we have our trek booked in already. We chose to do our trek with Sapa Sisters after much researching before we left home. They are a business that is run by women for women.
We had our breakfast and said goodbye to the lovely staff of Sapa Elite Hotel. Frankie’s friend didn’t want him to leave and was holding on tight to him to stop him from leaving.
Down at Sapa Sisters (office located in the Graceful Hotel) we were met by our guide for the day, Chi. Chi led us out through town where we walked through local streets, markets and past their local athletic field. Chi told us that we should have chosen yesterday or
the day before to do our trek and the weather really wasn’t great today. We agreed but today it was!
Along the way we had local H’mong women following us, they were obviously trying to sell us things but they made the kids horses out of reeds and love hearts out of palm fronds. Beautiful. These H’mong women followed us for about 3 or 4kms and after a couple of km we had the Red Daze tribal women following us as well, trying to get us to buy things from them. There was so much to see and Chi showed us the plant that gives the Indigo blue coloring to clothes. She rubbed the leaves on my hand to show how the colour is first green, and then as it dries it turns the blue colour that is used so much on the material up here.
Chi was a fantastic guide. She answered any questions we had and we learnt so much about her, herself. It’s hard for me to believe that she is exactly my age, 33. She is married and has 2 children. She can’t read or write. She can only write her own name. Up
until 3 years ago, she had never lived with electricity. They don’t own a television or have internet. All things that we take for granted every day. Chi has never been out of her region. The furtherest she has been away is Lao Cai, which is about 35km from Sapa. Chi’s village is about 12km from Sapa. She has never even been to Hanoi and says she is too scared to as she can’t speak the language of most Vietnamese. Every different tribe in Vietnam has their own language. She can’t read or write, yet she speaks English quite well. I don’t think she realizes that she can actually learn if she wants to. I told her that you’re never too old to learn.
Along our trek we visited the Ma Tra Village (H’mong people) where we had a delicious local lunch of local vegetables, pork, rice and noodle dishes.
After our lunch stop we trekked on. There was not a lot of visibility of the rice terraces that Sapa is so often picturised about, but that didn’t matter. We saw all the local people along the way. Our kids saying hello to the local kids and the
local kids running out to wave and say hello to us was awesome. Chi stopped and bought us some coconut bread for us to try for the last couple of km of the trek. We went off in another direction to go and have a look at a local cave. The cave is rather large and Chi said that it would take an hour to walk right in and then come back. We opted not to go right in and only had a look through the start of the entrance. This cave was located among a Red D’sao village.
One thing that I didn’t understand about the Vietnamese tribes before meeting Chi was that just because you might be, say, a Black H’mong doesn’t mean that you know every member of the Black H’mong. I kind of thought that they all lived together in the same village, but not so. They are spread out all over the district and only know fellow tribe people that they are close to.
Our last stop on the trek was to Ta Phin (both H’mong and D’zao people live here) where we were picked up by the mini bus to take us
back to Graceful Hotel. This village was quite interesting as the ground was all rock. It seemed quite smooth and would be quite slippery if it was wet.
After our amazing day out with Chi it was time to have a quick shower before heading for our overnight train back to Hanoi.
I never thought that I was a nervous backseat driver. Not until our drive from Sapa to Lao Cao, that is. The fog was so low that the driver could not see more that 5mtrs ahead. I could not keep my eyes off the road. I felt like I was nearly going to be sick. It wasn’t like these were even straight, non hilly roads. These were winding roads around mountainsides. The roads are fairly narrow and having to share it with oncoming trucks and large tourist buses, as well as our driver overtaking motorbikes on completely blind corners had my knuckles turning white. As we descended the mountain the fog wasn’t so bad so I did relax slightly.
Back in Lao Cao we had dinner at the restaurant that we had to pick our train tickets up from. I had the most delicious fried
rice with pork, chicken and herbs through it.
We hopped on our train and settled down for the night. This train carriage was much noisier than our previous one so was not so great for sleeping as well.
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