On the train ride to SaPa I shared a cabin with 2 other Aussies and a Philipino. One of the Aussies I had already met at my hotel in HaNoi – Allan from near Perth. He was in the Navy during the war, was on a ship stationed to the area for quite a while but had never set foot on Vietnam until now. Since then he has worked on fishing boats and knew who I was talking about when I mentioned the Crystal Lady.
The train ride ended at Lao Cai where at 8am things were already heating up. From there I had a very scenic bus ride and by the time we got up to SaPa it was almost jumper weather. New arrivals get the customary welcome from the local montagnard women – i.e. swamped, “what you name?”, “where you from?”, “how old you?”, “you children, how many?”, “you buy me?” while showing their wares. I had to chuckle at this one, can you imagine what a blind person would think when they are asked “you buy me?”. I was met by the person who had arranged my lodging and she guided me away from the crowd gathered around me. After a shower and breakfast I did the usual wander to get my bearings. This can be very difficult when the maps you have don’t seem to match each other or the actual streets around you.
I found my way to a sort of park above the town. There is an entrance fee and it is full of different types of gardens linked by paths and stairways. I found my way to two excellent viewpoints. One you have to crawl through a small opening between the rocks to get to but the panorama was beautiful. It is one of those times when you wish you had access to one of those cameras that wan take 360 degree photos. The weather didn’t get any better throughout my stay so I am very pleased with myself that I got those photos.
On my way down I decided to stop at a spot because signs indicated that they sold icecreams and yoghurt there. There was a big crowd so in I went. After a minute I realised that the kiosk was not in business and I had walked right into the middle of a group of Vietnamese tourists from Saigon who had just finished their lunch and were eating fruit. They didn’t let me leave, the same happened to another tourist who walked into the crowd. We were seated, given green peaches (they eat a lot of fruit when it is green here) and sticky rice with a sesame and salt seasoning. There were questions asked through the one person who spoke a bit of English and I ate as everyone watched in – dare I say it – awe. After they were satisfied that I had eaten there were photos and many handshakes before they went on their way.
I found out that the other tourist was an Argentine who has been living in Spain the last 17 yrs so we sat a while longer and chatted about experiences – that morning at his hotel he caught a glimpse of someone butchering a dog carcass so he wasn’t feeling very hungry.
After dinner was sitting on the balcony outside my room when person in the room next to me came out and we had a chat there. This was a Japanese butterfly enthusiast. He explained to me that this was his third trip to Sapa since April in search of new butterflies. He said he has discovered 10 previously unrecognised butterflies in China and now it was time to find some in Vietnam.
I met with my neighbour for breakfast and then went off to find my guide for the walk I had booked in for the day before. In this group I found myself with one of my cabin mates from the train – Chris from somewhere west of Coffs. The walk/climb was spectacular. I could hardly believe the places these people have managed to cultivate. There were cornfields that should be called “corncliffs”. Apart from much of the trail being very steep (all downhill) it was also quite slippery from the morning rain. Ah yes – it was lovely to wake up to gentle rain on the roof.
I don’t really have time to write my the rest at the moment but thought I would let you all know that I have arrived back in Bangkok safe and sound after trips to SaPa and Hue. Had a great time.
I now have a day to wind down before I