Another full day of travel

Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
Trip End Dec 12, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, November 12, 2012

Since Sapa is fogged in, there is no sense in going trekking.  People go anyway, just so they can get some hiking in, though they won't be able to see anything.  I sleep in, try to stay warm, then head down for breakfast.  Over at the table next to me sit a number of travelers discussing world topics.  One of which is about the damage the US does to other countries.  The word 'oil' keeps coming up.  I try to ignore them, but they are too loud and seem to want others to listen in.

While we are seated in the restaurant, the owner of the hotel comes in mad as can be.  A couple in one room wanted to smoke during the night but, apparently because it was too cold to go outside, they decided to smoke in their room, which resulted in the room catching on fire.  (The entire building is made of wood, which put us all in danger.)  The occupants didn't even bother to report the incident to the owner; it was brought to his attention when the neighboring occupants complained of the smell of smoke.  Upon investigation, he discovered what happened, and showed us a burnt lamp shade.  As an act of cowardice, the guilty party had skipped out sometime after the fire, but before the incident had been discovered.  If I were the owner, I would have reported them to the police.  

My train doesn't leave until 7.30 pm, and my taxi pickup is coming for me at 5.15 pm to take me to the train station in Lao Cai.  Since I have lots of time to kill, I decided to see what Sapa has to offer.  There are lots of really nice restaurants, and many stores to do shopping.  Before returning to my hotel, I stop off at the post office, only to see that the postmistress is selling panty hose in addition to stamps, though I doubt that the proceeds from these items are returned to the government.  I didn't find any in my size or preferred color, so I opted only for stamps.  Back at the hotel, I sit it out until 5.    

It's now time for the shuttle to pick me up.  Since it is not full, the driver drives up and down the main streets of Sapa looking for passengers.  He finds a few, but time is running out, so he heads to Lao Cai in the fog to get us to the train station.  One hour later, we arrive.  Again I have to go to the train carrier's office to pick up my ticket, and again I have troubles getting it across that I am there to pick up a ticket.  They keep trying to brush me away, and there is no one around who speaks English.  When I hand them my local travel agent's business card and motion for them to call, they pick up a ticket and throw it at me.  I don't care, I have a ticket.  (I asked the agent to send me the instructions in both English and Vietnamese, but he didn't.)  

This time I don't have a lower berth, so my luggage can't share the space with me.  I then put it under the small table.  When an older French traveler, who has one of the lower berths in the compartment, sees it, he goes wild, claiming in English that it is his space and it needs to be moved.  (His own suitcase is the size of a small backpack, and easily fits on top of it.)  We get into it.  His wife tries to calm him down, but he just starts complaining in French, which he doesn't realize I can understand what he is saying.  The luggage stays put,  We're now off on a nine hour overnight journey.  
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