On Sunday afternoon (20 September) we headed back to Hanoi, this time with 15 of us plus a stroller and a child's car seat (for a family with 2 kids plus a 6month old!) all couped up in our minibus - on a day reaching 36C!!!We found a welcome café to park ourselves for 4 hours in Hanoi before heading to the station for the overnight sleeper train up to Sapa.
Sapa is an old hill station, high in the mountains some 400kms north west of Hanoi.After a near sleepless night on extremely hard beds (but nonetheless much more luxurious than our stainless steel cabin on the Reunification Express train down south!), we got off the train at 5.30am in pouring rain at Lao Cai on the Chinese border.
We then once again were packed into yet another minibus for the one hour drive over the mountains to Sapa, a town of 40,000 and which, at 1650m above sea level, was around 15C cooler than Hanoi!
Here we stayed at a hotel which is managed by an Australian guy who employs and trains people from the local minority tribes (just like the Jamie Oliver and the "Fifteen" restaurant concept) as well as donating part of the income from the hotel and treks back into the local community.
We did several treks to local villages as well as spending time talking to the minority tribes people, some of whom walked many kms each day into Sapa to sell their handicrafts.We also did a lot of eating at the hotel café as the food was exceptionally good and the service was interesting to say the least!
The town of Sapa overlooks a beautiful valley with rice terraces and flowing rivers.Local guides from the minority tribes led us on our treks and it was confronting to see how poor the area was.We were only too glad to buy their wares to put funds back into the community.
We really enjoyed our experiences in Sapa and would love to return there again.Unfortunately we again had to experience the long overnight sleeper train back to Hanoi, this time sharing our cabin with a snorer!!