Nu'oc cong hoa xa hoi chu nghia Viet Nam!
After being wrecked on the overnight bus from Kunming, the first thing on the menu in Sa Pa is sleeping. The next three of four hours are divine.. Sleeping must be one of my favorite activities in the world. I think I could devote an entire blog entry to the joy of sleeping, heck I could write a book about it. A trilogy even. I do think you're all familiar with the phenomenon though, so on with the story.
At first I didn't really plan to stay in Sa Pa; maybe check it out for a day and then take the first bus or train towards Hanoi. Once in Sa Pa though, I'm immediately caught by its charm. Sa Pa feels like a French ski town.
Baguettes, potage de legumes, chocolat chaud, savez-vous où la boulangerie est?, merci, au revoir et bon chance
! I'm in no position to complain, but oh, how I miss the winterspot holiday this year! Sa Pa is an old French hill station, and still has the 'old' feel to it, mixed with Vietnamese culture. Touristy, yes, but more chilled out than the usual gateways to Vietnam, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. A great place to start your Vietnam Experience!
After a delicious nap, some food (oliebollen!) and some internet, Anthony and I join two Aussie girls from our hotel who are having dinner with a Vietnamese family. We're immediately given three shots of ricewine each and the party kicks off. Although we both had dinner, the Vietnamese insist we eat more. And more, and more.
Lyk omygodd I just ate lyk Dawg! LOL!
And dog. Nice! Dog tastes alright, although a bit more chewy than other kinds of meat. Anthony and I gratefully accept the treat, the Ozzie girls are a bit harder to convince. It's good fun :) I'll never look at puppies the same though. After more ricewine, we eat a tarte de chocolat
, combine it with several bières
and even more food. One thing's for sure, we won't starve of malnutrition here in Vietnam. The vietnamese tour guide is hoping to get lucky with one of the Aussie girls, which puts our combined Vietnamese to the test: Em yêu anh.. KHONG!
(I love you.. NOT!
). It's a pleasant night.
The next day Anthony and I realize that there's actually not much to do in Sa Pa, except for mountain tours, some treks and lots of minority village tours, including homestays.
Great meal, great food, great people!
One of the tours on offer stands out: Fansipan, Indochina's (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) highest mountain. Tough choice. We shop around for some prices, then stick with the first guy. Because there's completely nothing else to do in Sa Pa, we decide to go on a pubcrawl. We don't make it to more than one bar, it's a great evening however. First we meet Mark, the first of the ridiculous amount of Canadians I'll meet in Vietnam. We have some beers together, then play a couple of games of pool, where we're joined by Alexander, a fourteen year old kid on vacation in Sa Pa. The bragging can begin, but the more beers we drink, the worse our poolgame becomes. Anthony wins that nights Trashtalking Award hands down. Congratulations!
The next morning we get up with pounding heads and drive to the station to begin our trek.
Bloody great idea that was, to go boozing the night before your two day climb. Way to go. Once we start walking though, my heads clears a bit and I begin to enjoy it more. The part to the first camp in alright, but after that it starts to get really tough. Soaked with sweat, chilly winds, dense fog, cramps in both my legs; what am I doing here? Whose bright idea was this? After a short rest our guide Chuk announces we have three more hours to go to basecamp. Chuk's a great guy, but his idea of distances and elevation is a bit mixed up. Twenty minutes later we arrive at our camp, where we're joined by two Danish guys not long after. A swede completes our European party, and the all our guides and porters (we're eleven in total by now) prepare us a great meal.
Chuk, Nic and Anthony
We make ourselves comfortable on our bamboo matrasses and try to get some rest. Chuk starts singing a Vietnamese song, and soon we're all singing our national anthems, and after that the most corny, classic, funniest songs we can come up with. Barbie Girl (Aqua) is an instant hit, Shalalalala (Vengaboys) a cracker. Anthony melts our hearts with Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. Lionel Ritchie, the Spice Girls, what a night. I fall asleep with aching legs, a broken back and neck and freezing arms, but with a smile on my face. I reckon. I was asleep by then, but that would be my guess.
The next morning we set out for the summit. It isn't as tough as the yesterday's second leg, but we all have some close calls. Especially the girl that is guiding the Danish guides has it tough.
Have you seen this guide call 1-800-IFOUNDAGUIDE. Any help is appreciated.
She keeps falling behind and halfway to the summit she gives up, waiting for us to come down again. Fair enough, see you when we get back. We're slipping, falling, and dipping into streams and waterfalls on our way up, but all our pains and inconveniences are forgotten when we reach the summit. It's cloudy and the view sucks, but it's all good. We did it! A gazillion pictures and handshakes later we make our way down to the girl guide. Who is not there. Nor at the basecamp, nor a the first camp. Where'd she go? Eaten by the horrible Fansipan beast? Slipped and fell in an abyss? Called in the Vietnamese airforce to pick her up and bring her home? Kidnapped by the mountain tribes to be eaten alive? We have no idea. No one's seen her, not in the camps, not on the track. Two guides go back up to look for her, but to this day we don't know what happened to her. A happy end..
We make it down after two days of hard climbing and congratulate each other. The battle of Fansipan was a tough one, but completely worth it. A bit of action after Kunming's chill out sessions was certainly needed, and I'm really glad I conquered Fansipan.