Sapa - Paddy Field Frenzy and Glastonbury Envy

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Pumpkin Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We woke to a loud speaker roaring through the train, and the train was empty so we had to make a quick getaway off the train. The temperature despite it being about 5:30am was noticeably cooler and we met our pick up. While waiting Erica nipped to the loo and left me along to pestered by the hawkers most amusing was the torch which beemed a picture of a naked woman which the woman insisted I bought so I have replaced ericas head torch with it using sellotape.

We took about a 45 minute bus journey up to Sapa and some amazing scenery which we didn't manage to get many pictures of. Only one picture stop when the bus broke down, it only took about 5 minutes to fix it though once we were all off the bus. The tools needed to fix the bus amazingly were a knife, a lighter and some newspaper (I still can't figure out either what the problem could have been or what the solution could have been.

We arrived in Sapa at about 6:00am and got dropped off at some bizarre tourist office where a large crowd of Ethnic Minority Women (Black Hmong) stopped to look at us. We had a cup of green tea and then a guy turned up to take us to our hotel he ordered us outside and asked me to put all the luggage in front of him on the motorbike before he started to panic suggested he couldn't get all three of us there. It was odd because only when I suggested he took two trips did he calm down again. So Erica took the first bike with my rucksack through the rain and clouds (Sapa is up in the clouds literally) to get her hair wet. When the bike returned I was given an umbrella to make sure I was comfortable all the way to the hotel. This was genuinely the oddest arrival I think I have had anywhere. A crowd of perhaps 20 black hmong and red scarf women swarmed all around me shouting "where you from?" "what your name", "is that your wife inside" pulling me around and yanking at my arms. Just the appearance of these ladies with die on there hands and faces was odd enough and I practically had to run off to find where Lady E was hiding.

We got into our room after a bit of breako and went for a walk just being followed by lots of the local women who didn't seem to be trying to sell us anything but just followed us saying how good friends we all were. Oh.. we had also been told in Hanoi we would be fine wearing flip flops but the guide here said we would definitely slip so needed to buy some shoes. As normal I bought the cheapest shoes I could find which happened to be big walking boots and Erica had to go for something more stylish and more expensive and less robust. Anyway my boots were less than 10 and Ericas maybe about 15 still we are quite happy with our purchases, I give mine about 1 day before they collapse as I have now broken another watch.

We found our guide again and we left to do our first days trekking (something the Lady said she would never ever do!!!). the bus drove us about 30 minutes through the hills through some of the most stunning scenery we have ever scene. Nothing really prepares you for somewhere like this and a camera just simply can not capture anything like the beauty of it. When the bus stopped there was a big scrum of various minorities who were shouting who they all wanted off the bus and I seemed the most popular choice much to Lady E's amusement. Anyway I was quickly manhandled and pushed by two Red Scarf Ladies who wanted to know all about me. There was about 6 of us on the hike being followed by maybe 30 ladies who after no time wanted to sell us things.

Unusually Erica got rid of her two women fairly easily however mine knew where I was staying and starting saying odd things like, our village will be very unhappy with you if you do not make some contribution when you trek through, and said odd things like we will be waiting for you. In the end I suggested I would buy something for 15p if they had anything for that value. In the end she ended up pulling out things for 15p but Erica had the money bag and (arguable rightly) wouldn't get it out in front of the ladies. So they ended up even more unhappy with me shouting abuse at me. Not long after they gave up and wandered back.

The hike was incredible and within minutes of arriving this is an easy winner of our favourite place in Vietnam (by a long stretch). There is little point in going into further detail about the hike as we have so many pictures of cock fighting, men with knifes, local men and women and children doing there daily work and playing. It was absolutely great.

After the hike we went for a few drinks and met an English couple in their 40's / 50's who lived in India (well Goa which we don't see as India proper) and owned and ran a jewellery business that allowed them to work for 6 months then travel for 6 months on a budget which is great. They are having some fantastic experiences and were great fun.

After only having a small breako at about 6:30am we didn't eat again so come 7pm Erica was going nuts and we couldn't bring ourselves to eat plain bread from the bakery. We therefore ended up in a posh restaurant sharing a main course of sizzling duck in sapa honey which was great. After the exertions of the day and the train journey and early morning train arrival we were soon asleep.

Anyway today marks a sad day for us as Glastonbury starts their 40th Anniversary and having attend about the last 8 or so are gutted to be missing out. Thankfully Sapa has a kind of Glastonbury feel but we will still have to try and catch the likes of Stevie Wonder on catch up or something. If anyone is going have a strawberry cider every morning as soon as you wake up to clear your head for us.

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