Cool High in Sapa

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 28, 2013

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Where I stayed
Southern Hotel, 33 Fansipan Street, Sapa

Flag of Vietnam  , Lào Cai,
Tuesday, May 22, 2012


After finding out how much warmer it was in Bac Ha, some twenty four hundred feet lower in elevation, we changed our minds about taking a six day backcountry loop though low elevation small villages and enjoy the cool mountain villages near Sapa until it was time to go to our Halong Bay cruise. Taking the air conditioned train sounded like a more comfortable option.

5/22 Another Exploration on the Motorcycle

The road between Lao Cai and Sapa has fantastic side roads which lead deep into the mountains.

We rented a motorcycle again with the intent of going 15 km northeast back toward Lao Cai. Five kilometer from Sapa, there is small unpaved side road that leads steeply, too steep for normal cars at some sections, up to the ridge to the east.

Again, we stopped at rice terraces and watched rice being planted. Tis the season!

We continued up and made it to areas that do not see a lot of tourists. We got to the Black H'mong settlement of Sau Chau where the road dead ended into the foot of a steep mountain ridge. Only footpaths continue from here. A woman was lugging baskets full of wood from the high mountains. We parked the motorcycle and hiked around the high mountain trails with few wooden homes in an idyllic setting. Buffalo, pigs and even a few goats roamed around, small children often barefoot and partially naked observed us shyly. We spied several marijuana fields mostly grown for the hemp for their hand-woven indigo costumes. A young woman came out and began to stir a large concrete basin of water and indigo plants. I think she just came out just to see what the crazy foreigners were up to because, after a few swirls, she disappeared again.

Retracing our path a kilometer, we turned west on another side road new to us. We ended up in thick cloud forest. We came to several forks in the road and began taking the wider road. Sure enough, the wider road led us all the way back to Sapa.

Two friendly Dutch girls, Hanna and Marliek, were staying at our hotel too and they joined us for dinner at our favorite Sapa Restaurant, The Red Camelia.

5/23 Dave Got Sick in Sapa

Dave has a sinus infection and is progressively feeling lousier. We spent most of the day on our deck overlooking the clouds roll in and out of the valley in front of us.

We picked up some fresh tomatoes and peaches from the market. A well-traveled Australian couple joined us for a bit and we "talked travel" until they went out to purchase "North Face" jackets at bargain prices from one of the many shops around town. The China border is close and the steady flow of tourists make Sapa a good market for these counterfeit goods.

With Laughing Cow cheese wedges and bread, we made a great lunch. For dinner I was on my own while Dave rested.

5/24 Another Down Day in Sapa

Dave sinus trouble got progressively worse and he felt feverish. It was a good day to sick it out at "home" because of gloomy rainy weather.

5/25 – 5/30 Rainy days in Sapa.

Now we know what they are talking about when they say Sapa can be socked in. Dave is feeling a bit better but still drained. We had nice long lunch at Red Camelia and bought an avocado, tomatoes and bread for dinner. Aussie couple left today.

Only one lady in the market sells avocados at $1.50 at piece and Dave went back for more. He let her pick the original avocados so when we discovered that two of the three Dave got were bad, Dave went back to complain. What followed was an undignified altercation.  Dave showed one brown woody bad avocado to a woman there who promptly replaced the bad avocado from the stack. But she wasn’t the owner of the avocados. She was from the neighboring booth. The avocado lady came running across from the aisle, grabbed the avocado, threw it into a box and hid the box of avocados beneath her table while shouting “No! No!” Dave was put off by her rough tactics so grabbed a nearby a mango from her stack. One mango was fine with the lady so Dave grabbed a second and said, “One good avocado or two mangos”. She tried to wrestle the mangos from Dave’s hand so he held them high while asking for 'one avocado’. All the while, the 5' lady was trying to climb up Dave to grab the mangoes from him. I wish I had been there. No one came to avocado lady’s rescue and she relented and fished an avocado from her box and handed it to Dave. Dave eyed the replacement avocado suspiciously and it didn’t look that great either. It was not the best but it was edible. I went back a few days later she refused to sell me any avocados!

The sun hasn't appeared for days now and we seem to be enveloped in low hanging clouds and rain. We totally occupy ourselves working on our blog and sorting photos on our comfortable covered patio deck while sipping tea, coffee or hot limeade I make from fresh limes. At least we know how beautiful it can be here. We feel sorry for the people arriving here who only see dense fog and rain.

We waited until our last evening in Sapa to try its top rated restaurant. Then we had to go back there for breakfast and lunch before catching the train to Hanoi. After 15 days in Sapa, we have a good basis for our ratings of eateries we sampled:

 1- Sapa Rooms Restaurant. Nice atmosphere with menu fusion of Vietnamese and Western. Great Bun Cha. And all the other items were tried were very good too.
 2- Red Camelia Restaurant. Consistently great.
 3- Tent restaurant stall on the pass above Silver Falls. BBQ pork skewers & sticky rice. Yum!
 4- Nature View – Great food and views at good prices
 5- Viet Emotion - Delicate seasonings
 6- Romano’s Pizza - Pizza good, other items were inconsistent
7- Baguette and Chocolat - Fantastic veggie eggplant, pesto and goat cheese panini. I’m salivating writing this. Club was not so special and they were out of many of the menu choices 
 8- Sapa Lotus - great breakfast buffet
 9- Friendly Hotel Restaurant – dull food, skip
10- Quyan Hotel Restaurant – Chinese influenced menu somewhat oily. Not recommended
11- Sapa Firer Restaurant – Avoid

The market in Sapa is one of the more odorous we’ve experienced so we couldn’t try any of the food stalls there. Normally, we like to try market food. In Sapa, we stuck to the tourist restaurants!
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