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June 14th 2016
Published: June 27th 2016
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Our night bus was due to pick us up at our hotel 9.30 pm. We expected that it might be closer to 10 pm. as we were living quite close to the station so might be the last pick up.
At 9.30pm a guy on a motorbike came and directed us to wait on the side of the road around the corner from our hotel.
10 pm came and still no bus. Now we were getting concerned. It was meant to leave Hanoi 10 pm. About 10.20 I took a risk missing the bus and dashed back across the busy road to our hotel. The lovely Max in reception was surprised to see that we hadn't yet gone. I gave him a phone number and raced back to Tomas in the side of the street. A terrific down pour fell for about 10 mins and we had to hide under shelter. I raced back to the hotel again and Max said they were yet to come and I raced back to the street again. Neither of us really believed this as it was well passed time.

At 10.30 Max came and told us to wait at the hotel. Why were we having to wait on the street anyway? After about another 10 mins to our disbelief the shuttle arrived. It was full of other people who had been put in the same situation as us. One girl had given up and irresponsibly left her luggage with another girl while she went to the night markets. Our shuttle went all the way across the old town to pick her up again. There were heated words before the 2 girls before we finally were taken to our night bus.

The bus was half full of other travelers who were comfortably waiting for us. Everyone discussed their situations among each other. We had all just about given up on being picked up.
Anyhow after this the ride to Sapa was quiet and direct. No honking horns on this bus, as there was very little traffic on the road. In the night lights we could see that there were new sky scrapper residences for 10s and 100s of kms stretching out of Hanoi. It was surprising to see so much modern development.

We arrived in Sapa in the dark early hours and the driver let everyone sleep until light.
When I popped my head up there were dozens of Hmong people waiting outside the bus. Again as we exited the bus we felt like we were morsels of food being thrown to the seagulls as they swooped on us trying to sell what ever they could.

It took us ages to find our accommodation and when we did we hardly had any time there as check out was 10 am, not 12 as it was in the rest of the country. It had been an almost wasted expense. I thought it might have been worth the breakfast that was included at the very least but this too was disappointing. We met a lovely Swedish couple at breakfast and this was the consolation.
After checkout we wandered around looking for a more decent place to stay, annoyingly being followed by more local Hmong people trying to sell anything that they could. It was very hard to shake them off as very little discouraged them.
We later learned that tourists are discouraged from buying from these people as it only makes the situation worse and keeps the younger children from going to school.
We found what we thought to be a very nice room in a nearby hotel with amazing views. We paid more for it than other good options. Once we settled into the room it was disappointing. There was a strong smell of mould from the cupboards and bathroom and right outside of our window was scaffolding from the neighboring hotel which was under construction. Before long there was pounding and banging that didn't stop and scores of plasterers standing on the new level of scaffolding that was directly in front of our private balcony.

The next day we moved rooms again to the side of the hotel without a view and were much happier and the pockets were better off too.

Sapa was a huge disappointment for us. The construction work was absolutely everywhere, the deafening noise from very early until very late, the dust and dirt, the annoying Hmong people and the inflated accommodation prices for poor quality compared to the rest of the country. We later learned that you couldn't even go for a walk or scooter ride without paying 50,000- 70,000 VND p.p to go anywhere interesting. Even to walk into the next village cost money. I'm sorry that we had to come here to discover that we didn't like being here.

After two nights here and we hopped onto the night bus back to Hanoi feeling a little discouraged to continue our travels.

Yes, I would admit to having hit a travel wall here in Sapa. Feeling like we no longer wanted to continue. It made us wonder why we had come here when we have access to some of the most amazing natural scenery in the world in the countries that we lived in and here it is being exploited and destroyed only forming an ugly and unpleasant tourist trap for visitors. It is beautiful if you look beyond what is immediately infront of you in this town and others we spoke to had had better experiences in by getting out of the town and staying in quieter villages.

We, unfortunately had lost energy here and didn't feel like making any more effort in the heat.

Now we were in a predicament. Having one week left and only having Ha Long Bay left on our wish list. Everyone strongly discouraged visiting Cat Ba Island on a weekend.
The lovely view from hotel restaurant.The lovely view from hotel restaurant.The lovely view from hotel restaurant.

Look in the other direction and all we coukd see was a construction site
They also recommended this with Sapa, although I can't imagine that it could be any worse if we had arrived on a Sunday.

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