Sa Pa & Hanoi

Trip Start Mar 21, 2010
Trip End Mar 16, 2011

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Where I stayed
Homestay in a village
Overnight train from Sapa to Hanoi
hanoi guesthouse

Flag of Vietnam  , Quảng Trị,
Sunday, March 28, 2010

28 MARCH 2010 - Our overnight bags were re-packed after been back in Hanoi only for a few hours.  We got our taxi to the train station to go to Sa Pa.  Our overnight train left Hanoi at 9pm. We found our cabin and we ended up sharing it with an elderly Vietnamese couple who were fine.  They were munching on pumpkin seeds and offered us some and we declined using just sign language.  They were playing this fabulous Vietnamese music (NOT) and we hoped she would turn it off eventually, she did thank god.  It was not entertaining.  We arrived in Lao Cai train station and then met by our bus driver to get our bus to Sa Pa.  It took about 1.5 hrs to get to Sa Pa town travelling through terrible roads.  As soon as we got off the bus we knew we were in another world, attacked by millions of touts wearing their colourful clothing. Our conversation with most of them was always the same, they would say "hello, where are you from?, how old are you?". Then "you buy from me, why you not buy from me, cheap price".  I would say "No I don't want it, they would say "yes you do want it" and I would say "no I don't like it", they would say "yes you do like it" and so on!  If you buy from one then the others would get upset and say "Why you not buy from me, you buy from her not me,".  We had breakfast in a hotel and then went exploring and and just kept getting bombarded by touts, the worst ever, they would follow you for ages until they finally give up. 

Troy was surrounded by about 5 young girls at one stage and I yelled out "Hey Troy, you are with all your girlfriends", and one yells back "No he is too old", it was so funny.  We walked around the markets for a while and I saw a little girl sitting on her own so I took a photo of her. She wouldn't of been even 2 years old and she says something to her mother nearby and then I get a mouthful from her and she yells back at me "$1 for photo", No I said and walked off, holey crap that child didn't look old enough to talk, obviously they learn at a very young age to charge any tourist for money, little shit I say!  It started to rain so we went back to the hotel and waited for our guide.  The touts would hang outside the hotel door like bees waiting to pounce on you. The rain eased and then met up with Zi (aka cheeky monkey), she was cute.  

Our trek started in Sa Pa town and then we went through Yunh Ho, Lau chai (Hmong), Ta Van (Zay) our homestay, then Giang tachai (Zao) and back to Sa Pa town.  We started walking for a while through the Sa Pa town and then started walking through the countryside.  We bought the "easy trek" but I think there was a bit of misunderstanding and I thought we were doing slightly harder trek than easy because she asked us if we wanted to go this way or another way.  Well we didn't realise that it was a very hard trek.  So for the next 4 hrs I ended slogging my fat bum up and down the valley (Mary is writing this) and finding it quite difficult, Troy looked like he was doing fine but he told me he thought it was hard yakker too.  I was helped by two ladies and I felt rather embarrassed really but they were really nice.  If they didn't help me I would of ended on my arse many times.  Troy was doing better than Mary was by miles.  I am not a hiker.  The locals must be so physically strong because they do hike for many kilometres each day to get to town to sell things, its amazing.  The scenery was lovely but when you aren't a fitness freak then the scenery wasn't as nice.  After a few hours we stopped for lunch and had bread, ham, tomato, yoghurt, fruit and tea.  It was ok.  I thought our trek would never end and both Troy and my jeans were covered in mud.  Towards the end Mary was not enjoying it, I was quite tired and had very sore feet and aching legs and nearly in tears. Troy was rather sore too. We eventually got to our homestay.  We walked through mud, rocks, mountains, rivers, rubbish, buffalos, pigs, cats, dogs, buffalo shit, chickens, ducks, rice fields, scooters, touts, babies and more.  

After a nice hot shower and change of clothes we met the family.  They had a gorgeous baby girl and I wanted to pinch her (as usual).  We relaxed for a while and then met up with another group that were staying with us at the homestay.  The bed was great, very comfortable and the doonas were amazing, so warm and quite heavy but they were heaven!  We wanted to put them in our backpacks.  

We had a huge dinner with people from NZ, USA, UK, Belgium and Argentina.  They were a great group so we sat around chatting about stuff and shared funny stories.  Zi (our guide, aka cheeky monkey) and another guide her name Le sat with us during the night.  I wasn't happy to hear that Le told the other group that she was getting physically abused by her husband on a regular basis, she was married at 13 and had her first kid at 15 and she was a very unhappy girl. She was saying that its easy to get married but not easy to get divorced.  Zi our guide was telling us that the Vietnamese men are not good men, they are lazy, they don't help the wife or kids, they have kids and then go and find other women.  Zi was funny she kept telling us that she wants a sugar daddy but we know she was joking because she wanted someone to love and doesn't matter if they are rich or poor.  It was heartbreaking to hear that this is what happens to a lot of Vietnamese girls.  We were offered rice wine, it was like drinking metho, very strong!

We all had an early night, it was rather cold so the doonas were amazing, so nice and warm.

29 MARCH 2010 - We spent having pancakes for breakfast and then went for another couple of hours trekking with our dirty jeans, this time it was rather flatish and walked up a hill to get to the main road.  We got up the road to a very run down cafe and had lunch - a soup with egg and noodles and vegetables. It was nice.  We sat around for a few hours getting hassled by touts as we walked around the markets.  It was a pleasant surprise to get a tap on the shoulder and I turn my head and the elderly lady we shared our cabin with on the train says hello. I didn't pick straightaway where I knew her from, Troy says she was on the train with us.  Her hello was a big smile, it was nice be greeted by her and her husband.  We then had early dinner at the hotel and we got on our bus back for about 1.5 hr drive to Lao Cai train station.  At the train station it was dark and wet and no-one helped us because we weren't sure where to check in, we had to go to a hotel nearby. Eventually we made it to our cabin where we shared it with a Canadian couple who had heaps of luggage so we didn't have much room to move.  We left at 7.30pm and arrived in Hanoi about 4.30am the next day. 

30 MARCH 2010 - Its now early in the morning and our driver didn't turn up so we had problems with that trying to find him and no one wanted to help.  Eventually someone rang them and told him to take us to Hanoi guesthouse and they would pay for the trip, we already paid it in our tour.  We got back to our hotel where we spent several hours waiting for our room.  While I was using the internet I turn my head and the guys across the road were bonging on, smoking a big bong and I thought Cool....and I felt that crap (tired) that I (Mary) felt like joining them.  So I grabbed my camera and decided to go for a walk to try and get a photo of them without been noticed, it wasn't that easy, it was so early in the morning. I eventually got a photo of them, its just an ordinary thing to do here really.  While I was walking around taking some photos an elderly lady stops me and asks me by sign language and using hand gestures around her mouth and looked like a shape of a bong? I was quite sure she was trying to ask me if I had a bong.  I thought it was rather funny and I said No.  When I tell Troy he said maybe she wanted to sell me a bong.  Who really knows but she was probably in her 80's.  

We had breakfast early and we got hold of Tony and Mary's Mum via skype but communication wasn't great so conversation didn't really happen but nice to see them on the computer.  We got to our room 202 on the 1st floor about 9am where we have been all day, catching up on diaries, getting clothes washed and doing up this blog which takes up a lot of time.  Troy went out to buy some pastries which are dirt cheap and now we will head out for some dinner. We had dinner pizza, chips and coke for about $8.  It seemed strange seeing a familiar faces turn up at the restaurant, a guy and a girl that were staying at the homestay. We stay overnight at Hanoi Guesthouse again tonight and on the road tomorrow morning.   

To sum up some far, Hanoi is a CRAZY but very interesting place, lots of noise, action, dirt and grime, shops, heaps of piles of broken bricks, pavements and rubble all over the place. An action packed place from food sellers selling the most weird looking food to people bonging on, touts, kids weeing wherever they want, crazy drivers, horns beeping constantly, fairy floss sellers on bikes, crappy icecream, cheap food, gorgeous kids, most people are friendly and helpful and the craziest drivers I have ever seen so far.

To sum of Halong Bay just simply stunning, Cat Ba Island nothing exciting where you can get a haircut, pedicure and manicure for $1 USD each and hire a scooter for $3 USD and well Sa Pa is just another world out there

31 MARCH 2010 - Today we will start our open bus trip down south.  We just need to remember, keep our eyes CLOSED.







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