After the coach journey from hell, I was happy to cross the boarder in to Vietnam and see a Ford Transit mini bus waiting to take us to our hotwl in Sapa. After winding up through some steep mountain passes at normal speeds, admitedly there was some blind corner overtaking, but it all felt quite sedate in comparison to our previous driver! Anyway we arrived in Sapa a small village nesstled in the northern mountains of Vietnam. The temperature was hovering about 25c, the guest house was nice, the shower was hot and most importantly of all the beer was cold! - Barlow was a happy boy once again.
The following day I got up early for breakfast before our orintation walk, I hate these things but apparently we 'must' have them in every new town we reach. On the whole I've abanoned them, but as we were in a new country I thought I'd better play ball! Half an hour later I was free, first things first, laundry!
After a couple of hours sitting in the sun updating my blog, emailing everybody and of course a few of those ice cold 60p beers I met up with Jaap and we walked up the mountain to the highest point in Sapa, it was a little Disneyesk but the views at the top were spectacular.
On the way back down we stopped for lunch, beef in lemon grass & garlic and some of the best spring rolls I have ever tasted! I'm not too sure if I prefer Vietnamese food to the Chinese food but the change was definately welcome.
The next day we had a 6 hour trek to a small village in the mountains where we were to have another home stay. The trek was brilliant, along mountain paths, through a bamboo forest, we stopped at a local house for green tea, then again at the top of a huge waterfall and one last stop for ice cream before we decended in to the village.
The government are building a hydro power station on the river and are currently carving the roads in to the mountain, we had to trek through the excavations and scramble down the steep embankments! - The landscape was scared by the works, but our guide ensures us it is only temporary - I guess I'll never know. But the huge building site/playground was good fun!
The homestay was brilliant, more like a guest house than they other homestays, but it was more geared up for big groups and even had a western toilet!!!
We had dinner with the family which was amazing followed by numerous rice wines and kareokee - I hate kareokee but whilst in Vietnam.... Aftermore rice wine I was of course singing my heart out to Hotel California! I strolled back across the road to the homestay, where the Grandfather was smoking some sort of bamboo bong, which he insisted I tried (sorry Mum) - BLOODY HELL it was strong, not too sure what was in it, not sure that I really want to know but I was very light headed negotating the stairs to bed!
The deafaening noise of the frogs, crickets, mosquitos and a million other insects etc. kept me awake for about a nano second. before I was woken up by a bloody cockerall!
Still the home made bananna pancakes for breakfast made up for the early alarm callWe had a mini bus collect us from the village and take us back to Sapa
A mini bus collected 12 rather hungover bodies and delivered them safely back to Sapa ready for the train to Hanoi later that day.
A bus took us to the local train station about 2 hours down the mountain from Sapa. Jaap and I took on a mission of eating before we got on the train, there were quite a few touristy places with tourist prices. We then stumbled accross an open shop front which appeared to be a cafe, so we decided to eat. The poor lady new no English and 'hello', 'goodbye' and 'thank you' in Vietnamese or any language will get you nowhere when it comes to ordering food.
Eventually we managed to order something by pointing at ingredients on the side, we waited anxiously for dinner! To our supprise and delight we got roast duck in tomato sauce, spinich, fried veg & rice and all for about two pound! - We felt quite smug when we got to the station and everybody else was dinning on pringles and pot noodle!