Xin chào :)
Sapa Travel Blog› entry 12 of 35 › view all entries
So we headed to Sapa on an 8 hour sleeper train which was quite comfortable, bunked up with a couple of Australian guys on the same tour as us (the rooms were 4 berth)! Then onto a 1 and a half hour bus, and arrived in Sapa at about 7am on a cold and very misty morning! We were treated to a free breakfast (and greeted by a gaggle of Black H'Mong Tribe Women!) before starting out on our 19 km trek, with our tour guide Huong (and the Tribeswomen who proceeded to follow us for half our journey and forced us to buy stuff off them at around about lunch time!). We began in Sapa town then walked through rice paddies which are like giant manmade steps in the hills and can be seen as far as the eye can see (awesome! quite literally epic!). We went through various ethnic minority villages and were shown schools and taken into houses to see the differences between tribes (everywhere we went people tried to sell us stuff they'd sewn. The children actually said "hello, pay?" with their hands out! Cheeky buggers!). The views along the trek were amazing as we walked up mountains, through the rice paddies and streams and eventually arrived at our homestay. We were introduced to Mr and Mrs Jin (Mr Jin's reputation proceeded him as Sapa's greatest rice wine drinker "Mr Jin he drink litre and half of happy water") and shown our sleeping area - a balcony with 10 mattresses lined up next to eachother (yes! a bit of floor sleeping!). We helped prepare food for the evening, including spring rolls, then sat down to eat with our tour guides, Mr and Mrs Jin and the 4 Aussie guys that were also on our tour (it was quite funny as the group read; Han, Tom, Tim, Jim, Jim, Alex!). We were introduced to rice wine (aka HAPPY WATER!), and lots of it! Everytime we took a shot, it was filled back up immediately (each time the guide commenced the drinking with "i've got something to say", to which we had to clink glasses and say "mot, hai, ba, uong!" - 1, 2, 3, drink!)!! Apparantly Mr Jin was pleased to spend the evening with mainly men, as mostly its females on the tour!
After a peaceful nights sleep we awoke to continue the final 10 km of our trek, through a bamboo forest and round a waterfall and over a rickety old bridge (once again, think temple of doom!). We had egg drop soup made by Huong for lunch, then headed to the finish line (where we saw a monkey on a chain!) where we were picked up by a posh landrover and driven back to Sapa town. As we had booked the longer tour we spent a night in a hotel and went to Bac Ha Market the following day (not before breakfast! beef noodle soup!!). The market was surreal, very busy, and in the animal quarter quite disturbing, with blood on the floor, pigs being carried in bags with just their snouts poking out, and puppies tied up and being carried with string (not to mention the hens hung upside down on the side of mopeds). There were men crouched down playing flutes which was a spectacle (maybe a sign of what we've got to come). We did some bartering and got a few good deals on souvenirs ( ;) )! After the market, we did a short walk around another ethnic minority village (didn't bring our sun cream as we'd expected Sapa to be really cold, but it was infact the total opposite and we had to cover up with an actual scarf! we were sweltering!!), looking in their houses, again! Then it was time to get the sleeper train back to Hanoi, which was a little less comfortable this time (our carriage felt and sounded like it was going to detatch itself from the rest of the train!).
Back in Hanoi, we booked our last night at the hostel and our bus tickets for a 5 stop hop on and off bus for the rest of our journey down to Ho Chi Minh City. We went to visit the B52 outdoor museum, which housed a crashed B52 bomber, and lots of war machines from the north vietnamese army (it was awesome to see). We noticed a handful of white butterflies while walking around which we hadn't seen anywhere else in Vietnam. We thought this was quite poetic as the area was full of remnants of a very destructive era! We went to a nice restaurant on the evening called '69' which was delicious (and super cheap, at 10 pound for 2x 3 course meals and drinks!)! So good infact, we returned the next day for lunch after our visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where we got to see 'uncle Ho' himself (literally in person!)!! He has been embalmed (glued together like Lenin!) and put on display in a glass case for the world and his mother to see (contrary to his request of a quiet cremation)! It was very eerie (the strangest thing so far) as we entered the chilly Mausoleum (covered head to toe i might add) passing guards every 5 paces dressed in regal white uniforms, demanding silence and a strict arms by your side body posture!! As we entered uncle Ho's chamber his tomb was lit by an orange light and he was peacefully lying there (it looked like he could wake up at any minute) surrounded by 4 heavily armed guards (ak47s with bayonettes!).
That night we experienced our first sleeper bus (what an experience) from Hanoi to Hue (pronounced 'hway')! It was like a coach with 3 rows of bunk beds, enough to carry about 40 passengers! The beds were small (obviously made for the little guys ), reclined seats, similar to those on an airplane, but lying a bit further back! After a few sleepless hours on a fully booked bus we stopped to pick up the drivers apparent extra income in the form of about 5 more people who had to sleep on the floor (this supposedly happens on every journey!)! This was discomforting though as they were very dodgy looking and a little to close to our stuff! So we slept hugging our belongings (bag pillow baby yeah!)
We'll tell you about Hue at a later date, but now off to get some food :D