Hill tribe trekking

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Pinocchio Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, February 17, 2011

We arrived in Sapa a little bleary eyed from a night train to be greeted with thick fog and zero visibility. Goodbye to our dreams of rolling hills cut up with paddy fields and trekking in a t-shirt! Maybe we should start checking the weather forecast before we go anywhere?!? Anyway for better or worse we had arranged a 4 day trek with an organization that helps youths from minority tribes and we decided to go for it!

So on Monday morning we were met at 9am by our guide Do (pronounced  ) who first took me to buy some wellies – Kevin's feet are too big for Vietnamese wellies – and then took us to the school so that Kevin could pick up some big European ones the owner Shu had. We then set off in the wet air into the valley.  Weather-wise the first 2 days weren’t great, although the trek was still really good fun. Particularly the 2nd day when we were almost knee deep in mud.  As Kevin said we were just lucky not to have a really bad fall.  3 out of 4 times it definitely would have ended in tears because the mud was deep, slippy and we were walking on the edge of a hill. (For those that have a tendency to worry, when I say 'fall' and 'tears' I mean head-to-toe in mud tears not falling down the hill tears!)

At the end of day 2 though we got below the mist and the valley opened up to some beautiful views. It’s not the Sapa of the pictures with the luscious green paddy fields as we’re out of season for rice growing, however the paddies full of water all the way down the valley make for an amazing site. Although it’s a little scary walking along the ledge of the field when you can see deep water to fall into on either side!

Our accommodation was in homestays which was the best part of the 4 days.  They were real homestays, especially the last night which was in a village rarely visited by tourists.  We went shopping for dinner with the lady who owned the house, including buying a live chicken and carrying it home in a plastic bag!  We sat with them whilst they cooked – Kevin even watched the chicken being killed – and ate with the family.  Afterwards we sat around the fire 'chatting’ with the aid of our guide to translate. They seemed particularly interested in how two 29 years olds aren’t married with children! Despite the weather we had an amazing time and we loved our 2 guides Lan and Do. 

We spent our last day in Sapa helping out in Sapa O’Chau, the organisation that we booked the trek through.  As some avid readers may remember we were supposed to volunteer in Sapa but almost got screwed over by some guy posing as UNESCO.  Well this was the place that he was sending people to – Sapa O’Chau don’t charge volunteers so he was pocketing the money he charged and sending people there.  Unfortunately because that mess took a while to work out we didn’t have time in Vietnam in the end to do 2 weeks but we wanted to see what they do.  So we spent the day playing vocab games and helping the kids with reading. It was good fun and would definitely recommend it to people.  Shame we weren’t able to do it for longer.

You can check them out at www.sapaochau.org.
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