Sapa 15th - 17th May Trekking time
We left the hostel around 8pm ready to catch the 9pm sleeper train to Sapa. Carol (Irish) is now travelling with us through Vietnam so the 3 of us thought ahead and bought some diazepam from the pharmacy ready for the train (don't worry mum and Annette they are only weak ones!). The sleeper train wasn't like the one in Chiang Mai as we had our own cabins which slept four people which were us and a Vietnamese guy. We played a few games of cards and then popped some sleeping pills and slept until 5am when we arrived in Lao Cai. All the taxi and bus drivers are trying to get you to go with them but we already arranged pick up which came with our tour. It was 5am and there are vans playing dance music so random it was good as it almost woke us up which was much needed after feeling a little dazed, drowsy and confused from the train and aftermath of sleeping tablets! We took a 1 hour bus journey through the mountains to Sapa where we had a buffet breakfast in this hotel. We made sure we had a good feast as we had a 16km trek in front of us. We had enough time to shower and change and put on our walking boots before leaving at 9am.
There were 11 of us in total and we were highly concerned when 5 of them were from Canada!! It turns out they were cool and we all got on really well and gave us a much better impression of Canadians. As we started our trek with our Vietnamese tour guide (who spoke good English) a group of hill tribe women came out of nowhere and started following us. They asked us our names, where we were from and how old we were etc. We didn't really get what was going on but as we started our trek down a challenging mountain they helped us by holding our hands to get down the awkward parts of the climb. Some had babies on their back which was crazy as the climb was incredibly steep and slippery quite a few people fell over and hurt themselves. I had a few near misses!! The scenery was out of this world and we were so high up in places can't remember how high maybe 1600ft but it was an incredible views. The ground was getting ready to plant the rice so many rice beds had been dug out. Apparently in Sapa they only have one crop a rice in a year as it is a lot cooler up in the north. We appreciated the drop in temperature enormously although it was still bloody hot! After trekking for 12km both up and down the mountain we reached Lao Chi for lunch we totally wasn't ready to be pounced on by the hill tribe ladies who had been helping us. Shopping time they said. "I've been your friend they said to us (mainly the girls) and wanted us to buy stuff from them. They did help us no end although at times I was fine but naively thought they were being nice oops. I had two ladies helping me not sure how(I know I wasn't that bad at trekking I think I just looked like a sucker) so I bought one purse from one…she tried to charge me a tenner for it no chance it was tiny so we bought it for £3. The other lady tried to sell me another purse and kept harassing me so I just gave her money as I felt really guilty. Everyone was getting mauled and overwhelmed by these ladies it was so funny. They told us they do this twice a week and get up at 6am which takes them 2 hours to reach sapa (3 hours on the way back as we slow them down) to join the tour in the hope of selling items to westerners!
We had lunch which was Ok a big baguette, laughing cow cheese and ham with fruit. We only had 6km left to trek to our homestay so we chilled for an hour or so and then started the uphill climb to the village. We were greeted by the owners who made us feel really welcome and shown to our shared hut with a mattress, pillow and mozzi net. We all went to the lake for a dip and cooled off then back to the hut where they had prepared some amazing thick cut chips with fantastic seasoning yummy! The beer drinking began and we had showers and a really impressive dinner with spring rolls, tofu, chicken and noodles, veg, pork, seaweed, rice and some homemade chilli sauce….very tasty indeed. Since being in Vietnam I'm slowly mastering the use of chopsticks and ate my whole dinner with them. A Big pat on the back for me. In Thailand and Laos they give you cutlery, well a spoon and fork no knife!
That night we all played drinking games with our local tour guide too. We introduce the spoon game we had played in Chiang Mai to others but instead it was with chopsticks. Everyone was covered in soot again but was top fun. The family kept bringing out a bottle of rice wine or aka "happy water". We all had around 6 or 7 shots of this lethal but cheap alcohol. It tasted like cheap tequila so pretty much like ethanol! We were in bed for midnight as we were all shattered and had a 6km trek the next day. Parts of this were challenging, especially as my feet were in bits and covered in blisters…very painful indeed. As we were trekking Dai tried to take a picture of some Vietnamese kids up in the mountain and the 7 year old girl stuck her fingers up at him funny as…you've gotta love the attitude of the Vietnamese! However we did manage to get a good picture of another local child as she seemed thirsty or hungry so I gave her my small bottle of water so she seemed grateful (think she was only about 5yrs) and she let us take a pic of her. There was more uphill climbing and interesting parts through a bamboo forest. We reached a water fall where we got an epic group photo but couldn't swim. There was a lake further down which you could bathe in. There was a very rickety bridge which we had to cross didn't look the safest but the buffalo seemed to do it daily. He casually walked across it and I managed to snap a quick photo. You see the strangest things in Asia!
Trekking was done and we had lunch and then back to the hotel for a shower and freshen up. We chilled there and got some food in Sapa before waiting for the bus back to the Lao Cai where we caught the sleeper train back to Hanoi.
We thoroughly enjoyed Sapa both for the amazing scenery and company. We feel as our trip is going on we are interacting a lot more with locals which makes our travels so much more satisfying. It was a shame though that it was pretty misty so the scenary could be even more epic but the fog only clears properly about ten times a year.