Back to Hanoi from Halong Bay, it really was a nice Christmas!
Kirsty, Vicky, Donna, Joe and myself got up early to see Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. If you didn't know, Ho Chi Minh is a big deal here. He liberated Vietnam from the french and also brought the whole Communist regime to the north. A mausoleum where we saw him is a place where they have kept his body preserved and on display for the public, there are only three in the world and all belong to Communist countries..it was alittle creepy seeing as he died in 1969 and although he looked peaceful it was still weird! There were guards everywhere..you had to walk in pairs, couldn't fold your arms, put your hands in your pocket, or take any pictures while you were there in the building. It was the first time I felt like I was being watched or observed and the first time I felt uncomfortable in Vietnam..
The girls were leaving today so wondering around Ho Chi Minh's palace and museum and then alittle around town with them was nice. With fond farewells once again they caught their flight to Thailand and the full moon party for New Years Eve! This was going to be my plan but I thought it important to see Laos and Northern Thailand so I changed my route..You really shouldn't plan anything while you are away because you never know where you might end up!
Later that day, the fantastic four (Thibaut, Joanna, Emilie and me) set off to Sapa. It was one of the highlights in the guide so I thought it might be nice if the weather was good! After a 12 hour journey we arrived. Emilie knew someone here who lived in a minority village and so we thought it would be nice to stay overnight in her house. She got to us at around 9am and we set off up the mountain. Her name was Mai and her village was called Hau Thao...It was only a 4 hour trek away!!! With three of us carrying our backpacks (Joanna left hers at the bus station...SMART idea!) we were absolutely shattered!! It's a good job I had a good pack or my back would have been DESTROYED! We got to the top of the mountain and to Mai's home..Her house was pretty basic, made of wood with a hole in the ground for the stove but the views around it were gorgeous! The weather was great and the fresh clean air filled my lungs..too long had I been in the busy cities and you could really tell the difference between the air! It was also quite cold up in the mountains so I was glad I managed to find a decent coat in Hanoi..
Upon arrival to the village her family was waiting for us..a lovely warm welcome and friendly introductions; I met her husband Keu and their three great children..Keu immediately started dinner which was a relief as I was soooo hungry from the longest walk of my life!! Dinner was great and it was really good to try new things that in other circumstances I probably wouldn't have tried.
After dinner and really full from the constant replenishment of my rice we went outside in the cool evening air, we were quickly joined by children in the village who once again seemed to take a shine to me! Pretend tai chi and karate, gladiators, soldiers, and other scenarios were really fun! I think I had just as much fun as the kids! After a couple of hours I was shattered and it was time to chill around the stove/fire..It was really dark and about half 7 and I was already yawning! Mai must have noticed this as a couple of minutes later she said to us.."two sleep here and two sleep there" poining at two separate beds...Climbing into bed we laughed as it wasn't even 8pm hahaha! Funny! Looks like it's an early night!
Despite going to bed early we slept for 12 hours..must have needed that early night! It was a nice breakfast with the family before the kids went to school. We left Mai's house at around 9.30 for the long walk back to Sapa.. She took us to the main road where it would be easy to find our way back, little did we know that it was about 10km away..!! Always seeming to be walking up hill beneath the brilliant sunshine we could really see the surroundings where we were walking!.. Paddy fields everywhere with the waters surface reflecting in the sunlight, the mountains in the distance with even bigger mountains rising above them! Was really impressive to see that kind of landscape and so glad we got to see it in the sunshine!!
We eventually arrived in Sapa..Exhausted and slightly red from the sun we found a hotel and just crashed. A much needed shower and a nap we just went out for dinner, hot chocolate and a movie..awesome!
The next day took a turn for the worst! The weather was a dramatic reverse..From glorious sunshine to awful fog and rain. We didn't know what to do and ended up just sitting in a restaurant waiting to leave..amazing how the weather can dictate how you feel..we really couldn't wait to leave and at 6 pm we made our way back to Hanoi.
Despite the final day I had a really great time in Sapa! Such an experience to stay with a family that lived in such a different way. I loved the people and loved the mountains. Really great trip and would definately do it again :)
Now back to Hanoi for New Years!!
Until Next time!