Emmas in the sky with........ clouds and rain.....

Trip Start Jan 16, 2009
Trip End May 26, 2009

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Where I stayed
Pinnocio Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hey there, EW speaking. Okay where do we begin......

Remember Yangshou in China? There were rice terraces and pretty views that we didn't see because of the clouds/rain... Well I know we never got round to putting pictures up but worry not, the photos for this entry are pretty much exactly the same. We thought "Oh yeah its summer now in North Vietnam of course it'll be sunny! AND the book says that between March and May are the best months to visit Sapa, weather wise." Well we'd forgotten that where ever we go, if it can be crap weather, it will be. Fantastic!

We got the train at about 9pm on Tuesday night and found the trains to be really nice! I'm not sure why but we were expecting the trains here to be worse than China. But in fact they were nicer than the Russian ones, mostly because they had a door, despite us going by hard sleeper. But there were 6 beds in the compartment (although 7 people as 2 Vietnamese girls about our age only had one ticket between them but bribed the ticket man to let them stay on the same bunk).

When we arrived at the train station at Lao Cai at 5am we wandered over to the minibuses to go the final hour to the town. We finally got on one that was a decent price i.e 30,000 Dong as oppose to 300,000 Dong which the first guy quoted us! Rip off! When we got to the town we went and found the hotel where a couple of Irish girls who we met at Halong Bay were staying who we'd sort of arranged to meet up with. Unfortunately that hotel was full up so we wandered down the road and found another one with an ok room for $5 a night so it wasn't too bad. Although absolutely everything in Sapa is always damp (including bedding etc) due to it spending most of its time in the clouds. Its up at 1500m so its not too high but still, always really really moist.

Although the hotel we ended up in could only give us one night as it was full for the second night due to a festival/national holiday starting the next day. So we wandered around the town trying to find somewhere where we could stay for the second night. Unfortunately we had already booked our train ticket back to Hanoi for the Friday night so we had no choice but to stay there two nights. But as it transpired there was absolutely NO hotels with rooms free for the second night, the Vietnamese on holiday had booked them all up months ago. So at this point we were beginning to despair a little bit and think that we would have to sleep in the street or something. In the end we decided to do the sensible thing and book a two day trek including one night at a homestay in the hills. Not something we had originally planned to do because of the cost, but we had no choice. The only rooms available in certain dubious places didn't even bear thinking about staying in, they were that bad. Anyway we thought it would be fine, it wasn't even raining at this point....

After a breakfast and feeling somewhat stressed, and poor as we'd forked out for a tour for $22, which isn't actually that bad for 2 days including all meals, we hopped on a little moto man to go and see a pretty cool waterfall and a mountain pass that was meant to have spectacular views. I'm sure the view was pretty spectacular however we couldn't see much because of the cloud.... We chilled the rest of the day in a cafe, being continuously harassed by the woman saying "you buy from me!" and showing us all their wares, whether we wanted to see them or not. Later that night we met up with the Irish girls (all we seem to meet are Irish!) and went out to dinner, had wine for the first time in months as it was pretty cheap and generally had a good time.

The next day we set off at 9:30am on our trek with our guide who was a feisty girl of 15 years old! She was awesome though and her English was brilliant! It didn't rain too much which was good, as we didn't come best prepared, shoe-wise. All we had were our Converse, which, as we found out, were not the best for doing a trek in mud. But as we'd posted out hiking boots home months ago we didn't have much choice. We didn't even have a waterproof jacket so we had to buy a crappy poncho in case of rain. Prepared? Us? Of course.... The rest of the people in our group consisted of a French Canadian couple who also had to do the trek with the homestay as they couldn't find anywhere to stay in the town. The first day wasn't too bad. A little slippy but not too bad. We walked right amongst all the rice terraces which was pretty cool. I only had issues once when crossing a river I slipped off a rock and my right foot went ankle in water, which wasn't much fun for the rest of the day. The food was pretty nice and we only walked for about 5 hours.

We arrived at the homestay quite early and were joined buy a Dutch brother and sister team to finish off the Western contingent, there were also a group of 6 Vietnamese from Hanoi on another tour staying there. We sat around chatting and playing cards/reading until teatime, which was really good. There was so much food! then afterwards the 'mum' came out with a plastic bottle full of Rice Wine! She then started pouring us all shots, we had about 4 or 5, which were all preceded by a chant which was approximately "1,2,3 1,2,3 1,2,3 drink!" Or something. Anyway it was fun. Made us sleep well anyway.

The next day we set off, it had been raining for about 4 hours by then as was easing off as we left. My right foot had pretty much dried which was nice so we were hopeful. Unfortunately due to all the rain the walk was treacherous, we were slipping left right and centre. The Canadians were doing fine, they had done plenty of treks on their holiday and were wearing proper shoes so they were probably getting really annoyed at us for being slow. Oh well. I slipped down a cliff at one point, getting mud all up my leg. After that I had 2 Vietnamese woman helping me, one either side, and without their help it would have been much much worse. Although despite even that, whilst crossing a river I slipped off another rock and my right foot went ankle deep again! So I squelched and slipped away for the rest of the day. To add to this it was pouring with rain but quite warm as well so I gave up on the poncho as it was cooler that way. No point getting wet from sweat as well! Em on the other hand, did well, no falls or wet feet or anything. By the end of this day we looked pretty good and muddy I have to say.

We got a bus in the afternoon back to Sapa and got a little woman to do a swift clean and dry of our incredibly muddy shoes. They washed up pretty good, we thought they were gone for good. We then got a bus back to Lao Cai train station, on which everyone seemed to be throwing up. At least 2 girls did anyway, with a couple more people looking really ill. They threw the plastic bags of vomit out the window and Emma is pretty sure at least one hit a man on a motorbike on the way out, lovely...

After a few hours wait in the train station we were on a soft sleeper back to Hanoi (not as flashy as it sounds, the only difference between that and the hard sleeper is that there is 4 beds instead of 6). We got back to the original Hanio hostel about 8am where we had a sneaky shower and repacked our bags. We then wandered around the lake and ate at Fanny ice cream (lol) as it's a nice day, for a change. Tonight we get a bus down to Hue (its all go) and then hopefully soon into Laos and a whole new country wooo!

Love the Emmas
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