The top of Vietnam

Trip Start Nov 15, 2008
Trip End Jun 15, 2009

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

 The flight into Vietnam has to be the shortest flight I have ever been on.  I think we were in the air for a maximum of 40 minuets.  We found few people on the flight who were heading to the same area as us so we shared a taxi with them and went to the same hotel.  The rooms were super nice with air con and cable TV, so we were beginning to suspect that the price of $7.50 US was actually per person not per room (and we ended up being right).
 We had a quiet night and a nice meal and decided to look into getting to Sapa the next day.  When we woke up we discovered that one of the English girls had gotten gastro and was feeling really rough so the trip to Sapa was going to be delayed for them.  We booked the train for that night with out to much problem (just a bit of bargaining) and decided to check out Hanoi.
 It was so much bigger and busier then anything we had seen in Lao, so it took some getting used to all the beeping horns and smog and crazy drivers again.  The area we were staying was the old quarter so lots of little winding streets with tall old French style buildings crowding out any remaining light.  It was authentic.  We wandered around the lake and headed to the literary temple.  It was nice inside the grounds, the high walls stopped some of the noise and the gardens were nice and green and refreshing.  I liked the different style building too, much more Chinese looking then the temples we saw in Lao.  It was worth a quick look about.
 The train for Sapa left that night at 9pm And Was expected to be an 8 hr journey.  It was actually a good trip, we had booked hard sleepers and it was really very comfortable, so much better then an overnight bus.  We (Dave, I, Jak and M) all slept quiet well and were feeling ok to face the day.  Things started a bit chaotically by me leaving my ticket on the train and having to run back to get it so I could leave the station, and then trying to find a bus to get us to Bac Ha instead of Sapa.  We wanted to go and see the local traditional markets which were only on a Sunday (the day we had arrived) so we had to find the one local bus to get us there.  We got ripped off (again) but did manage to talk the guy down from 180,000 dong to 70,000 dong each.
 The drive to Bac Ha was very pretty up lots of mountainous roads, but was slow and took 2 hrs.  The markets were cool and we saw heaps of ethnic minorities in their traditional clothes.  There wasn’t much to buy, but it was interesting to see the buffalo being sold and the pigs getting shoved into bags to be taken home (they can make some noise!).  We then got the bus back to the train station (after sitting on the bus for over an hr while they loaded it up with everything and anything) to be taken on wards to Sapa.
 It was quite chilly by the time we had arrived in Sapa, and the clouds had rolled in making it almost impossible to see.  We followed a couple of other people who ad been before to their hotel and booked into a very nice room that even had a bath.  We had and enjoyed our first hot shower in ages before checking out the town.
 It was a nice place and felt a little more like Europe then Vietnam.  Unfortunately the views that are meant to be amazing were hidden from us by cloud, for the whole time we were there.  We found a day tour to do for the next day, hiking to some local villages and went to play cards at our hotel.  Just as we were getting started guess who we should run into but Nic.  It had taken her 5 days to get over the border in to Sapa from when we last saw her in Muang Ngoi, we were very glad we had decided to fly!
 We woke up the next day to cloud and rain, a perfect day for hiking!  We made a very sensible purchase on a few ponchos and headed out for the walk.  Our guide picked us up in an old US army jeep and we headed to the start of the trek.  As soon as we got out of the car we were swamped by local women with umbrellas, and there were so many of them.  Our guide said they would walk with us the whole way and try and get us to buy things off them.  We weren’t too pleased with this, but after the initial swamping they kind of let us be a bit more.  I did make friends with on of the ladies from a Red Dao tribe who could speak quiet good English.
 The first bit of the walk was down hill and very easy we walked through a few local villages and enjoyed views of the rice paddies.  The clouds were very thick though so it was hard to see to far into the distance.  We stopped for lunch at the last of the lower villages and had nice fresh baguettes with egg and salad. 
 The walk then got a lot harder and more adventurous.  We ascended up the side of the mountain and started to walk up through the rice paddies.  Because it had rained so much overnight and was still raining, the path was very, very muddy, and hence very, very slippery.  Our little ladies who were left (I think there was only 3 now) helped us through the rough parts so that we wouldn’t slide down the mountain.  Although it was slow going and really a bit dangerous in places, I quite enjoyed myself.
 At the end we did end up buying some things off our ladies, we kind f felt we had to, Dave would have been still stuck up there somewhere or lying somewhere down the bottom if his little ladies hadn’t held on to him (he blamed his shoes).  As it was Jak fell over at one stage and almost slid about 20 meters down the hill.
We were hoping to get the train back to Hanoi that night but it was full so we spent another night in Sapa and then spent the whole next day doing nothing!  It was raining again and we felt we had already spent one day getting wet.  The train back was good again but we arrived at like 5 am, so it was a long day to spend back in Hanoi. 
 We met back up with Adam and Jackie and their friends Scott and Jessica and decided to go to Halong bay together the next day.  After looking in about 10 different agencies we settled on one we hopped was giving us a fair deal.  We ended up booking a deluxe option and paying $82 US each for 3 days, we hoped that by sp ending that little extra we would avoid the bad boats that you an sometimes be stuck with.
 That night the first sate of origin was on so we found a pub that would play it and introduced the Canadians to some Australian football.  Unfortunately NSW lost.
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