I left Ninh Binh bound for the mountain village of Sapa just South of the Chinese border and about twelve hours from Hanoi. I again had to over night in Hanoi due to my arrival time and their being no night buses available for me to take to Sapa. Since I had been in the city before I was able to confidently hop onto the public bus and make my way to the Hoan Kiem Lake District and easily find a room for the night. Always nice when you actually know what you are doing. After an uneventful and expensive ($380,000VND) twelve hour ride overnight on the bus I found myself high in the clouds of Sapa and the sights and people of this region were straight out of the pages of an ancient history book.
Arriving in Sapa I was armed with a wealth of information that was given to me by the girl who sold me the bus ticket in Hanoi. Her hometown being Sapa she was eager to show me on a map all of the best places to go and even had a hotel sorted for me that I walked to upon arrival. Gotta love it
when everything is smooth. The view out of my window at my hotel was spectacular and certainly worth more than the $7 I was paying for the room.
My first day I hiked about 8km through Cat Cat Village which is down the mountain from Sapa. The H'mong People of this village wore colorful outfits and had terraced rice fields on the surrounding mountainside. The "village" portion where the tourists trek through was little more than a gauntlet of stores selling trinkets and handicrafts. Pushing all of the touristy things aside, it really is a beautiful area filled with interesting people whose lives have not changed much in thousands of years.
The next day I was keen to rent a motobike and explore some of the outer reaches in the Hoang Lien Song mountains surrounding Sapa. Some of the peaks in the area are around 10,000ft. and the weather was quite cool. It is always thrilling to ride a moto in Asia and even more so when you are on a narrow twisting and winding road with certain doom on either side. I really enjoyed the people farming and going about their daily lives with their foreign dress
and exotic faces. The women here are quite adept at speaking any number of languages and most of them speak excellent English. Usually they are just trying to sell you something but every so often you can have a real conversation.
Their are thousands of tourists in Sapa, but we are all here for a reason. It truly is a beautiful place and if you can look past the crowds and get your own transport you can get off the beaten track a bit. I really loved it here and I was hesitant to leave. With my time traveling winding down I really am becoming more and more reflective of the places I am in or that I am going to. Chances are I'll never be in any of these wonderful places again in my life which is quite sad. As much as I am looking forward to returning home, I've grown quite fond and quite accustomed to this nomadic lifestyle I have led over the past 15 months. But with my Visa running out I was forced to head back to Hanoi for one last day of sightseeing before my flight to The Philippines.
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