Entered Paradise - Sapa

Trip Start Feb 16, 2010
Trip End Mar 09, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  , Quảng Trị,
Monday, February 22, 2010

Woke up at 5 am to use the loo and the train arrived at Lao Cai station at 530am. Getting out, many touts were trying to get us on their tours. Once outside, found our tour guide, herded into a minibus like cattle, and was off to Sapa up mountain. We also stopped to pickup a primary school girl into town.
Once at Sapa, I can already see groups of minority locals in their traditional wear. It wasnt that chilly with the nice morning sun. Views from the hotels (Sapa Summit Hotel) dining room were absolutely breathtaking. We were at the top part of town overlooking mountain valleys bathed in misty morning clouds. This was nature at its most majestic. After a breakfast of pho bo (which was pretty bad) at the hotel, I joined a group of 6 with a 15 year old native guide to the village of Cat Cat. Her name is Chu (pronounced as Chew) and spoke good english. She finished her primary school at 12 years of age and stopped school since. And today was Chu's first day as a guide.
The trek was a total of 6km loop, nearest to the town square. Rice paddy fields, local traditional clothes, pigs...etc, were a constant sight. Turned out, the rice fields were for their domestic consumption, not export. It was the second time I saw the sun since Cat Ba Island. Temperature was actually warmer than Hanoi. Through the 3 hours trek, I was stripped down to my Tee shirt from my 2 layers of winter jacket.
Save for the town square, the entire Sapa town nestles on steep slopes. I was walking so much I dragged my feet on my way back for lunch. Checked in my room and had a much needed snooze for 30 mins to recharge. I was on the go at 330pm to Sapa town square. Wandered further east for photos looking back at Sapa. Returned to square and visited Sapa Market. Bought a hat but had to bargain from an opening price of vnd 120 000 to 35 000.
On my way back to hotel which was uphill, I stopped at Baguettes & Chocolat for a brownie and lemongrass tea which was good. This joint is run by french teachers teaching local teens in cooking and making patisserrie and find them work in local hotels or restaurants after they graduate from the course. After dinner, it was beer time near the town square. An old lady hassled me for a long 10 mins, insisting that I buy her bags. Imagine repeating "No thank you" for 10 mins. It was really a test of patience - I won. Drank a local brew-Larue Beer. Not as tasty as Bia Hoi definitely but at vnd 20 000 a bottle, cant complain. Finished the night with an hour on the net before I realised that all my photos from the first two days were lost...What a lousy feeling.
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