Enjoying having everything organised for us in Halong we arrive back in Hanoi and booked on a tour to Sapa for the next day. We arrive in Sapa after a long winding bus journey up into the mountains. I think to myself these roads were not made for giant buses to be going around and climbing the mountain but at least it isn’t icey like when on a ski trip in France. We arrive in Sapa and there are loads of women in traditional dress all fighting to get people to come to their homestay and we spot the sign for Joel Nobbs and take a guess that it’s for us.
At the hotel we had a shared lunch with a nice Aussie couple who would be joining us on our tour. We leave Sapa with our guide and 4 ladies in traditional clothing all walking to the village where we’d be staying. It was about a 2 – 3 hour hike and the scenery was stunning. We had a few chats with the local ladies, what’s your name etc and they made me a heart out of leaves and Joe a little horse from bended wood.
It was so peaceful trekking along with these ladies and walking down paths through properties and rice paddies. We stop in a village and the ladies take off their baskets and proceed to give the best sales pitch they can. I buy a small bag, but I have a feeling this would not be the last time we would be hassled to buy their stuff.
We arrive at our homestay which has the best wifi we have come across which was really odd in such a remote place. Our beds were in the roof of a barn with beds for about 12 people. We had such a lovely Vietnamese dinner with a mixture of dishes, and when you saw the ‘kitchen’, one gas cooker and a fire it seemed pretty amazing that they were able to produce such amazing food. We had dinner with a bigger group and 2 new girls who were to be our guides joined us.
These girls were so happy and they soon had everyone laughing and drinking ‘happy water’ while playing the chopstick game. One older guy didn’t have the best reactions as the rest so ended up drinking most of the happy water and then wanted to dance with me to Justin Bieber!!
The next morning after breakfast and playing with a small and very chubby toddler our guides lead us out of the village and then through a rice paddy which was very tricky. We were all struggling to keep our balance and Joe lost his shoe into the mud!
We trek with the girls and then get accompanied by more ladies in traditional dress, one latched on to me and was helping me get through the steep terrain which I was actually so grateful for. They are so tiny you just don’t expect them to be able to hold you up but they are like little mountain goats not looking where they are walking it’s just what they do every day. We stop and take a rest and learn that one of the guides is getting married next year at the age of 19. She has met her husband to be a few times and she is telling us all this while she is stitching an intricate pattern which will eventually be her wedding dress. We wander further still down the valley and cross the prettiest river and then on up to a school to have lunch which was like a nicer version of super noodles with an egg in it!
In the day we had been walking in beautiful sunshine but back up in Sapa the cloud had fallen all over the city and we had to put all our clothes on to keep warm while we wandered around. We even went for a hot chocolate!
Waking the next day to thick fog we weren’t sure how the hike to Catcat waterfall was going to turn out! Stepping outside the cold hits us and it really feels like we’re in France minus the great snow! We hike down to a village and soon leave the clouds at the top of the mountain.the village was full of shops, pigs and people then down to the very beautiful waterfall.
On the way back up our guide goes off the road and leads us up the hillside. At first it doesn’t seem so bad but it gets steeper and steeper I just don’t think we are going to make it! After clambering up scrapping with our hands we sit to enjoy the scenery and then head to our final lunch in the hotel. I’m not quite sure I can put my finger on what exactly I loved so much about our Sapa. Perhaps just the combination of being in the mountains and meeting some amazing locals who really let us into their culture. Everything we have done so far has just been so touristy and with people just looking to make a fast buck out of us. I feel blue on the bus back down to the city because the time in the mountains is now over.
This doesn’t last long as it’s back to Hanoi for Christmas! Checking into a slightly nicer hotel we spend the next 2 days wandering around the city having traditional egg coffees, shopping and taking in all the Christmas atmosphere. Xmas eve they closed the street from cars and bikes and the restaurants spill out onto the streets with barely enough room to make a route through the middle. There was a great buzz and so interesting to see that Asians love xmas too!