Hmong-ous Storm

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thanks to the amazing staff at the Hanoi Old Centre Hotel who managed to change our train tickets from Local hard class sleep to soft tourist class sleeper we arrived in Sapa after best train journey yet. The bus journey to Sapa was up a winding path around the side of a mountain with stunning stepped rice paddies cut into the sides of the mountain and tribes people dressed in bright embroidered clothes working, walking and selling things at the side of the road.  Our bus did pull over at one point and the driver got out to join the other people stood at the side of the road looking down into a ravine.  As much as we were all hoping that it was an animal that had fallen into the ravine, it turned out that it was unfortunately a person.  I guess this is the reality of living on the side of a mountain.

As our bus arrived at our hotel we were instantly surrounded by Hmong villagers (or Ninjas as we preffered to call them) trying to sell us trinkets and to take us to the their villages.

We were welcomed at our hotel and as we had arrived so early they told us to buy breakfast and we would be able to check into out rooms as soon as possible.  As it was after a good two hours sat in the lobby the receptionist decided to admit that they had double booked our room which we had specifically chosen due to the views and we could either down grade to a room with no window or view (without any refund??!!) or move hotel.  Needless to say we had our bags on at the speed of light and were off to the next hotel, the hotel seemed shocked that we refused to pay for our breakfast that they had made us buy… what is it with Vietnam and our luck?!

Our replacement hotel was a bit of a trek out of the main area but the view over the valley was just stunning so definitely worth the extra walk.  As we only had one full day in Sapa so we set off to see if we could find any tours that didn't involve trekking and had a look around the town.  The main square in Sapa where all the tribal villagers go to sell their wares and the main thing to see in Sapa was dug up and closed off, our luck continues.  We didn’t find any tours that were worth doing so we decided to just have a relax and take in the view.  We found a lovely restaurant that had a roof top bar with happy hour beers so took a seat and took in the views of the valley.  Here we were joined by the lovely Linda and Bindon from Canada, a retired couple on a tour of Vietnam and Cambodia.  We shared some hints and tips of where to stay and where to go and generally had a really lovely evening just enjoying the view.  Thank you for the beers Linda & Bindon, hopefully we will meet again so we can buy you one back!

There is no question, Sapa is one of the most stunning places we have been.  The funniest thing about Sapa is that every single tourist has a Hmong Ninja following them around trying to sell them something, they are literally like shadows.  Even if you take shelter in a café they will be waiting for you when you get out.

As we were snuggled in our bed the most massive thunder storm rumbled over the valley, the rain was hammering the windows, the lightening flashing and lighting the entire valley and the thunder rumbling so hard our bed shook, it was at this point we were delighted that there were no tours for us so we could have a nice lie in and not have to trek down some sodden mountain path.  Sapa certainly knows how to throw a storm.

After a flying visit it was time to get the bus back to train station, this turned out to be the most terrifying bus journey yet (and that is saying something!).  The road is carved into the side of a mountain with sheer drop and our driver was going at at least 80kph with the wheels squealing  and locking like in F1 racing driver.  Twice we were on the wrong side of the road and narrowly avoided head on collisions with buses.  The vision of the people staring into the ravine on our arrival was still fresh in my mind and I did spend the entire journey asking Buddha to please forgive us and cut us some slack.

To top it off whilst looking at the world flying past the window we noticed three men at the side of the road preparing meat, and even going past at the speed of light it was obvious they had 3 skinned dogs! This was one of the most awful sights we have seen for a while.

The bus dropped us outside a restaurant rather than at the train station so we lugged our bags the rest of the way through the town and then had long wait at the train station.  The station was pretty rank and when I tried to use the toilet I ended up paying 30p to take a photo as the doorless filthy squats were just too much for me even after this long travelling.

The train to Hanoi was lovely, we had an awesome couple Jamie and Eelynn from Singapore who kept Tim entertained and listened to his crazy stories whilst I tried to catch up on the blog.

We woke up and the train was already pulled into Hanoi Station, so bedraggled and half asleep we gathered our belongings and headed back into the madness that is Hanoi.

Thank you Sapa for leaving us with a wonderful last experience of Vietnam, onwards to Cambodia we go!
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