Greetings from the mountains of Northern Vietnam!
When we last blogged we were the other end of what has turned out to be a huge country, in Ho Chi Minh City which we enjoyed greatly despite the scorching heat. We spent our last night there having a few beers on a street corner watching the millions of mopeds whizzing by.
Next stop Hanoi, the first thing that hit us was the difference in temperature. When we left HCMC it was 35 degrees and in Hanoi it was 15 degrees, quite the drop in just a couple of hours. We got to our guesthouse and donned our fleeces for the first time in months. Hanoi is frantic and crossing the road is more of a sport here even though the roads are smaller than in HCMC. It felt good heading out in the coldish dark conditions rather than sweating after a few steps, we stopped off in a little café for dinner and hot chocolate, really made it feel quite strangely festive. Exploring the Hanoi streets was fun and getting lost was a regular occurrence but that's what we loved. Last day there we headed to see Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature and had lunch at the brilliant Koto. Koto is a non-profit organisation which gives street children a two year course in catering and hospitality, the kids were brilliant and the food was amazing definitely worth the visit. On our wonders we joined and a small crowd and caught a glimpse of Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde of Belguim on their visit and Fay kept being handed the street vendors scale-like baskets so that we could 'photo!'- for a fee obviously . We took a walk around Hoan Khem Lake trying to spot the giant tortoises that live there; no luck but we did see endless brides and grooms having their wedding pics taken. That night we strolled around the night market before turning in early to get up and catch the train up into the mountains of Lao Cai, on the Chinese border then on to Sapa. The train journey was 11 hours which luckily we got a four bed cabin to ourselves watching the beautiful countryside roll on by.
Arriving in Lao Cai was manic we got grabbed early by the minibus mafia which was lucky because they got quite aggressive with others. The drive up the mountains was not for the faint hearted sitting up the front was a poor choice as visibility was no more than a few feet, the driver texting whilst blindly overtaking on the small mountain pass was not what we ordered after 11 hours on a train. Arriving at Sapa, the town in the mist, we dropped off our stuff at our hostel and headed out to get some grub since we hadn't eaten all day. We found a nice little place to escape the mist and the biting cold but sadly not the noisy americans! We found a cool little bar after for a few beers and a proposition from the local dealer, knowing that the local drug of choice is opium we refrained.
This morning we woke up excited to see the view from our room which we were told was great, but alas we could see about 10 feet into the pea soup fog. In light of the fog we have spent today wandering around town stopping for hot chocolate and a cosy fire every couple of hours. The town itself is really cool, the mist makes it seem other worldly and the village people (not the YMCA kind) the native people to the mountains in their dress really add to the vibe. The fact that they follow you in groups around town hasn't got annoying yet!
Having another hot chocolate next to another open fire, lovely! Hopefully get some views and trekking in tomorrow if not I see an overdose of hot chocolate coming!