AsiaVietnamSa Pa

Motorcycle Diaries (except I drove my moto into a ditch)

Sa Pa Travel Blog

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We took the night train last night from Hanoi to Lao Cao, a border town near China. The night soft sleeper train was amazing! At first it was just Regina, William, and me, and then Michael decided to join us the last minute after we had booked our 4 person sleeper cabin. So he ended up in the berth next to us and I had to convince this nice Vietnamese business man, while the three of them were buying beer on the platform, that he would much rather be in the berth next to us with the screaming baby than us with the loudspeakers blaring Madonna's Time Goes by so Slowly. At first he wasn't entirely sold in this idea, especially since we had this conversation with me speaking loudly in English and pointing at our shit everywhere, but I guess my smile was enough and he finally agreed. The other three returned and we tried to give him beer but he politley declined. Played the standard drinking games, but Regina and I were no match and soon fell asleep exhausted, she clutching the Vodka bottle, while the boys went in search of the canteen car. Awoke at 6:30am in a panic. "Hey guys, doesn't the train arrive in Lao Cao at 5:30am?" I had visions of us approaching the Chinese border with no visas. Fortunately, we were just pulling into Lao Cao, threw our clothes on, grabbed our stuff, and hopped off the train. Caught one of the many minibuses waiting into Sa Pa and for the first time had a speedy driver who made it up the path in record time. Arrived into town ridiculously early and let the boys find a hotel while I sat down and chatted with little Hmong girls, all who speak relatively good English. One girl in particular, a little 12 year old named Mee who spoke excellent English, befriended us and told us she wanted to be a tour guide when she was older. Maybe in 7 years she said. I was chatting with these girls when out of nowhere, this adorable grandma blindsided me and plopped a hat on me with the local dye. I kep trying to take it off and give it back to her and she kept swatting at my hands. I was so weak and didn't have the heart to run away from her. We took a picture together, which delighted her as I showed it to her on my digital camera. I gave her 10,000 because I felt bad,and she waddled off happily, with her ink stained hands clutching the money. Little did I realize that she was a schemer and would try the same move again later that night because she had forgotten what I looked like. Granted I did look a little dirty and tired when I first arrived into town, but I didn't look that different. We checked into our hotel, only $5 with amazing views, and ate at the terrace cafe. Then we rented motorbikes from the guys outside our hotel milling about. Only $5 for the day. I can't believe these guys trusted me to ride their precious belonging. They gave us a crash course in bike riding and off we were on the way to visit local villges. We drove through a mountain pass and stopped on the side of the road where a woman underneath a blue plastic sheet was making delcious pork skewers and sticky rice. We met this delightful Australian couple in their 60s who chatted with us. We then departed where Regina immediately accelerated and hit a parked motorbike. The insensitive lout that I was, I was laughing uncontrallably while everyone was surveying the scene of the crime so to speak. This nice Vietnamese couple had to translate for her. Regina basically got screwed over and had to pay $60 for the "damage" done to this man's bike. Then the Vietnamese couple had to follow us down the mountain to make sure we didn't kill ourselves. The couple was very sweet and offered to let Regina ride behind the man, and his girlfriend would drive Regina's bike down. We continued onto to Taphin, but managed to drive past it. We pulled a u-turn where I proceeded to accelerate rapidly and drove into a ditch. Funny thing is I was completely unhurt and just laughing. I wasn't the only one. An entire tour bus passed laughing at me. This is something I've gotten used to in Asia, where people simply a town with this huge cave, and women in traditional dress mercilessly trying to sell us stuff. As soon as we arrived, I was swarmed by 4'11'' women. "You buy from me?" "You buy this cloth from me?" All they designs are beautiful but the dyes run and all the women have stained hands. And they always pick out me as the softie of the group. I need to learn to avoid eye contact and stop smiling. We drove our bikes further into this small town and explored this cave where the small children sold us paraffin torches to light the way. The cave was dripping water and dark. I felt like I was in The Hobbit. We exited the cave, hopped onto our bikes and then poor William got a flat tire. Luckily we pulled into a repair place off the side of the road where we were the star attraction. I had to get my side pedal fixed after smashing into a ditch and 5 men stood around my bike checking it out while one lone female fixed William's flat tire.

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Sa Pa
photo by: amylaichareonsup