I am building up all kinds of brownie points by at least starting this 2nd blog entry.
We are now in Sapa in the north western highlands amongst all the various hill tribes.
The overnight train ride was actually a lot of fun, we had a sleeper cabin with 2 lower and 2 upper bunks, but we were the only 2 in our compartment. We had been warned that the journey would be bumpy and would have lots of starts and stops so we had a half of an over the counter sleeping tablet each and managed to actually get a few hours sleep. ALL the beds in Vietnam are rock hard, so we will not mention that again unless we get a softer one. The cabin was nice with snacks provided and flowers on the little table. Western toilet too - a big plus!
Our first night in the mountains was at Bac Ha, a small market town. We first went to a nearby small town for their market day. The various hill tribes have beautifully coloured and quite distinct costumes (It seems the women are the ones who maintain the traditions, not so many of the men wear traditional dress)
As well as being a weekly market the gathering is also the social event of the week with the local unmarried girls and boys trying to attract each others attention. While there are tourist goods on sale, there are also all the goods which keep the locals going on sale.
There is a livestock market where cattle, water buffalo, dogs ( sold both as guard dogs and as food) horses, pigs chickens etc are sold.
There are herbal medicine stands,hardware stands, food stands, booze stands etc.
Most of the food at the market looks disgusting, we have seen dog stew, bits of dogs for sale, dog sausages and in one village we saw a dog which had recently been killled being dipped in water to get rid of the fur.
Other various bits of other animals on display in the hot sun are just as nasty to look at, but the whole idea of dog as a source of meat is pretty hard to accept. We have also seen sparrow kababs on sale - no, we didn't try them!
Some of the tribes we have seen are Flower H'Mong (Multi coloured costumes) Black H'Mong ( Black Outfits) Green H'Mong ( ... no you're wrong they wear blue costumes. Red Dao, Red Tay (pronounced Zey) etc etc . If there was ever an Olympic event for "Hawk and Spit" these people would probably sweep the podium. This along with an intense fascination with contents of nostrils, delicately picked out for display.
The farmers here grow rice, corn and veges and there are pot-bellied pigs everywhere. They, chickens and water buffalo are free- range so there is always lots of activity in the fields. We have done quite a bit of hiking each day, through the rice paddies and along dirt roads going from one vilage to another. It is really pretty. We have been very lucky with the weather as apparently Feb is the coldest month up here but we have had hot days and just some fog in the mornings. It is quite hazy most of the day so haven't been able to get clear mountain views.
We have one more day here then take the overnight train back to Hanoi then on to a National Park. Not many birds yet but hope to see some at the park.
hope all is well with you,
love, Malcolm and Elinor