Sapa 03/08 - 05/08

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August 3rd 2017
Published: August 23rd 2017
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Before you read on, we will do our best to document Sapa but words alone can't really do this place justice. It was just spectacular.

After our relatively standard bus trip back to Hanoi we headed to "tour guide Tony" for a shower, change of clothes and waited for our sleeper bus. His wife had also beautifully wrapped our present for Erwin (the guy getting married in Java) which was a bonus. Catching the connecting smaller bus, we noticed a definite influx of fresh-off-the-plane travellers and we seemed to be the only ones happy to go along with south east asias backward protocols. There was a lot of panicked conversation, talks of scams and worried voices whether we would make it to Sapa that night. We sat quietly (couldn't be bothered to help out, it had been a long day) and felt sorry for the conductor having to deflect the barrage of questions. To everyone's relief we transferred to the sleeper bus without issue and everyone was on their way to Sapa. It was only a short drive but we had been assured we could sleep on the bus until 7am, however, we woke to an empty bus at 6amwith only the 2 of us snoozing, everyone else was standing on the side of the road with their bags and obviously had been there for a while. Again, we couldnt be bothered to ask anyone why they'd all jumped off when they'd paid for a bed and it was raining outside but hey ho! As soon as we got off the bus we were met by Mama Zu smiling and looking beautiful in her traditional village clothes. We spent a few minutes sorting out a price for our stay with her and then set off to begin our 3 day adventure ... everyone else was still standing by the bus in the rain - very strange.

Mama Zu had fantastic English and so we were introduced to her friend Mama Seh who would be our guide for the day whilst Mama Zu scouted for some fresh-off-the-planers! We hiked straight from a cafe in Sapa for 4 hours through the most breathtaking scenery of our trip so far. The start of the trek was a steep climb up the mountain out of the town and along past tea plantations in the jungle. She was very sweet and even though we couldn't speak much she took great care of us and took us to all the most beautiful vantage points of the valleys. From here we could see ginormous mountains and the tiny farming villages dotted around and the clouds hanging between the mountains. Mama Seh also made us each a love heart and a horse out of the ferns which she had picked as we were walking. Char attempted to return the favour but failed miserably, it was much harder than it looked. We stopped for lunch at a great spot overlooking a steep valley. As it was a rainy, cloudy day the views changed so quickly with the clouds sweeping between the Valley almost like a river. Jack decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss so set about taking a time lapse video on his iPad. He turned his back and saw his iPad plunge down into the vegetation below where we sat - damn! Luckily the rain had taken mercy and stopped briefly so off Jack went down into the plants (breaking a fence on the way) and retreived it. No harm done! It was all working fine - lesson learned.

After our fried rice we continued trekking down the now pretty muddy and precaurious paths where Mama Seh lost her footing. This was slightly disconcerting as if she had slipped it was only a matter of time before we stacked it too! Fortunately we meandered down the Valley with no accidents and arrived at Mama Zu's home. It was like going back in time! It was a small house towards the top of a hill in her village with the most spectacular view of the mountains and rice paddy fields. There were a couple of pigs in her back garden, ducks, chickens and children very excited to say the least. Mama Zu was still out trekking when we had arrived at her house so decided to go out and explore the village on our own. The rain had stopped so we found a perfect rock to sit and enjoy the views, smells and sounds of the place we had suddenly found ourselves in. We had about an hour or so attempting to do some mindful meditation (when in Rome), playing eye spy at the outstanding valley that laid before us, watching the children and buffalo go about there business before the rain reared its ugly head again so we headed back home. When we arrived we found that 3 Spanish travellers were also joining us for the night. After chatting and generally relaxing after a pretty tiring day, Mama Zu layed on an absolute feast! We munched on a much needed dinner with some of Mama Zu neighbours coming to join us and had our first experience of 'Happy Water'. This stuff was rocket fuel, imagine Tequila infused with Vodka - it was a heavy night. We managed to polish off about two thirds of a 1.5 litre coke bottle before calling it a night and heading off to bed!

The next morning was amazing. No hangover and a lot clearer weather which gave us all the opportunity to really take in where we were - surreal. We had banana pancakes with honey and an omelet for breakfast, topped off with a coffee and soon headed off to see some more scenery. We trekked through the paddy fields which were everywhere you looked and to say they were paths would be lying. Mama Zu looked like a mountain goat compared to our elephant strides but was really good fun and we both managed to avoid falling on our arse which is always welcome. We were joined by the Spanish group and headed to a waterfall which was in another village. It was a pleasure to see all of the different goings on with children playing (and riding) the buffalo, the tribes women in their different outfits, workers in the paddy fields getting their harvest, higgledy-piggledy houses perched on the edge of the hills with brightly coloured washing hanging up to dry, not to mention the staggering views round every turn. By lunchtime we made it to the waterfall where there were beautiful little kids and their mums selling handmade clothes and jewellery. We stopped for lunch overlooking the valley and said goodbye to the Spanish as they were moving on the next day. That afternoon we continued trekking back through the valley with Mama Zu and when we arrived home there were another 5 travellers at the house. 3 were dutch and 2 were English. They came with Mama Zizi and Mama Ze. That meant Mama Zizi, Mama Ze and Mama Zu (what a mouthful) cooked up an even bigger and better banquet (probably down to Chars sous chef expertise with the spring rolls) and had an ungodly amount of happy water, which escalated into all of the Europeans singing songs with Paul (the English lad) and his guitar. We were also joined by half the village who must have heard us from a mile away.

The next morning we were suffering. Mama Zu's gigantic stack of pancakes went some way to help our happy water hangovers. Mama Seh joined us after breakfast and we said our goodbyes to the other lads and set off on our final trek through the villages with our favourite guides. I don't think you could ever get bored of the Sapa scenery and we happily wondered along the dirt tracks gawping into the homes and craft shops along the way. After our final lunch with the guides Mama Zu's husband Nu and his friend gave us a hair raising lift back up into the main town and we caught a night bus back to Hanoi later that night. What a few days! Best week ever!


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