Land of the terraced rice fields
Sapa! Fresh, green and where christmas for me and Daniel started. We arrived to a misty, foggy day, we could not see where we were. That's because we were nestled inside a cloud! A tad disorientated we found a hotel with a top floor 'view' of white cloud instead of the Sapa Valley.
There is one main strip of hill which harbours all the shops and cafe's. Even some restaurants with log fires! On our local town orientation wonder we stumbled upon a local shop selling santa hats and tinsel. So excited that christmas was only 2 weeks away, we bought 2 light up santa hats and red tinsel. We then rushed back to decorate our bags and wear our hats (which light up by the way)! Like little children we were! But it was hard not to be excited as here we were in south east asia where every restaurant, shop and bakery displayed decorated trees, santa pictures and free hot mulled wine signs. We felt like we'd entered a ski resort in the clouds.
Luckily the second day had cleared up so we rented a bike to cruise around on. We underestimated how cold we would get. Having gotten used to the heat we really felt very cold when the temperature dropped to 17c or lower. The scenery was amazing, spectacular, epic. As the white heavenly clouds rolled over the giant hills and lush mountains. There were many flowing waterfalls that we passed on our travel to find the thing that Sapa is know for... terraced rice fields. It was the afternoon and it had started to get so wet, misty and cloudy we couldn't see infront of our noses. Without the bike having a front light to show oncoming traffic we were there. We instead drove at a steady 5-10 MPH down the slippery, winding roads. We eventually realised that we had been driving straight through the terraced rice fields and not been able to notice them because the rain and fog was so thick. We eventually managed to find a tiny break in the moistured air and took a couple of pictures of misty terraced rice fields. Then... after battling a rainy hill with dodgy tarmac, plenty of pot holes and no visibilty, we made it to the safety of an overcharged cafe with fire and hot chocolate.
In Sapa we had our first experience with a H'Mong tribal junior. She was 18years old, the tribal name escapes my pen, but was very striking looking. We had learned that when the tourists were coming to Sapa, the hill tribes also come to sell their goods. Our friend told us she, her tribe and her family derived from the Chinese. They also have H'Mong tribes all over... USA, Laos, China, Thailand etc. At first she asked us if we wanted to buy anything from her basket, that was strapped to her back. She didn't have much so we bought a thick metal bracelet for $3. After we parted we shortly bumped into her again. I forgot to mention, the H'Mong tribe wear amazing tribal clothes died in all different colours. You can tell by their skin which glow green, blue or pink. Also colourful headresses determine what tribe you come from. The H'Mong; tarta scarf, The Red Dzao; a black scarf and others...
On our second meeting she told us about her life. The village in which she lived was a 2hour trek in the mist and rain every morning to get to Sapa. The money she gets goes to buying medicine for her family and food if the crops have not delivered. Sometimes if she makes a good amount in a day, she gets to buy meat from the market, which is for the family for dinner that she states is a rare treat that only comes around maybe once a month. I thought of Daniel without meat and a teaser meat dinner once a month. I think Daniel would start to eat himself!
She was also illiterate, couldnt read or write, however she could speak perfect English and Chinese, Thai and H'Mong. She also knew the basics of French, German and Spanish. An inspiration and an amazing human being. We hope to stay in contact by email, but fear her lack of literacy will hinder her. She made us respect even more the indigenous communities throughout the world and how we will do our best to support them in future.
Sapa was one of our most favourite parts of Vietnam. Even though it was wet, cold and cloudy, it reminded us of home...