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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, October 31, 2011

The terraced mountains of Sapa are breathtaking.

We arrived at 5am to Lao Cai on the overnight train from Hanoi and were shuttled another hour to Sapa.

Baguettes filled empty stomachs and coffee woke the dazed and confused. We exited the café and wandered down towards our accommodation. Within seconds we were surrounded with 7 women from the minority tribes. "Hello, what's your name? Where you from? How old are you?’ and so on. They will follow you for an entire day, until the polite chit-chat becomes “You buy from me! I wait you all day, now you buy from me’. I’ve pretty much mastered being firm and polite before quickly disengaging or not engaging in the first place. Unfortunately some individuals didn’t see it coming and ended up buying extremely overpriced handicrafts just to keep the peace.

The trek down into the valley from Sapa was a muddy, slippery meander. Hunched over locals carried sacks of rice weighing 30kgs upon their shoulders as they clambered up hills. Their feet housed in plastic slippers and gum boots. Zi, our local guide was of the Hmong minority group.
I carried with me coloured crayons, red pens and little wooden spinning tops to hand out to the children in the villages we would pass through.
In one small village I saw a little girl sitting in a doorway drawing with a black pen on paper. I threw a coloured crayon down to her and before I knew it she had summoned another 20 children out of seemingly thin air. I handed crayons to small fingers beneath big dark eyes. As I ascended the next hill I heard the excited giggles of the children and the unmistakable howling of a child that missed out.

We passed fat black pigs and teeny little piglets, pumpkins grew atop trellises’ as ducks dragged their muddy feet. 
We hiked for 7 hours before reaching our homestay. We drank beer from big bottles and rice wine shots at dinner.
Amazingly we had no hangover for the half day trek the next day through the very muddy and slippery bamboo forest, down mountains and atop waterfalls. Some of the group finished with a little bit of mud on their shoes, others emerged with mud from tip to toe, all wore big smiles.

Sapa was definately the highlight. I'm now in Cambodia so hence the brief it all seems so long ago.  The photos tell a better story so pop the slideshow on.
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