Head in the clouds in Sapa - Travel Blog - PrivateSapaTours.com
Head in the clouds in Sapa
Sometimes there is just too much excitement for one week. Getting back from the Women's Retreat, there were only a few hours before I headed out again – this time to the airport to collect Kate who was arriving from England for a half term visit to Vietnam. We had a little bit of time to take her out for breakfast and show her a few sights in Hanoi, before she took off on a plane to Hoi An and we were being driven to the station in a previously unexplored part of town for the overnight train up to Sapa.

People say that Hanoi, for a big city, is a relatively small place and this was proved by the group we bumped into at the station -  Pastor Nelson and his wife Jan (who had been on the retreat) and a group travelling with them to Sapa, among whom was a friend of Daf’s and member of the same church as my sister in Preston. We had been emailing about meeting up, which was proving rather difficult so it was fortuitous that we were on the same train at the same time! We are concluding that a journey is never so fascinating when reported by somebody else as when you are living it yourself, so I won’t mention much about the train journey, other than to say that the next time I’m on a night train due to arrive at 5.00 a.m . I won’t set my alarm for 4.30, because there might just be a scenario where the train has come to a standstill and even when it does get going it won’t reach its destination until 1.00p.m. so waking at 4.30 would be a fairly pointless exercise. From the staton in Lao Cai, we had an hour or so in a minibus up into the mountains to Sapa, which was shrouded in mist and cloud when we arrived six hours late. For the first time since leaving the UK we were very excited to have heating on in our room and the possibility of a nice warm bath.  

Everyone we had spoken to had said that we must visit Sapa, and we were not disappointed. On emerging from our hotel on the second day, we were glad of the fact that we had brought our raincoats and I think our guide was rather surprised when we said that we were happy to walk to some of the villages. For us it seemed like a fairly standard (if slightly chilly) summer’s day in England – she was dressed in her tribal dress, topped off by a pink wooly hat, a green puffa jacket and camouflage wellies.  However, by the time we had walked for a couple of hours or more, taking in the village life of the Black Hmong people, she was quite happy to remove the puffa jacket and the hat and use the umbrella as a parasol instead.  The pictures give a good picture of the village we visited, but not of the real poverty of village life – the numbers of children not in school, the way of eking out a living by producing rice, weaving fabric and, most predominantly now, selling things to tourists .

We had been warned not to encourage the women who would attach themselves to us, because once they have walked with you for an hour or more, you feel pretty much obliged to buy something, but on the second day, in glorious sunshine we weren’t quite so firm and ended up giving in and buying things we didn’t need because we just didn’t have the heart not to. We were able to wander in and out of the primary school and the junior schools just taking photos as all the classroom doors were open – not much sense of security here!  Our walking also encompassed two waterfalls, a good view of Mt Fan Zi Pan (the highest peak in this part of the world) and the chance to take in the street markets and souvenir stalls in Sapa town itself.

We were so thankful for the wonderfully sunny day before we left for the train home which made the views up and down the valley even more stunning. It’s lovely that making friends through the International Church meant that we were able to meet up with a friend who lives in Lao Cai before taking the night train back to Hanoi. This time we arrived on time and so were in a taxi heading home by 4.45 a.m. We then realised the people Mark sees on his way to work at 6.30 a.m. are the late risers – the joggers and devotees of Tai Chi and yoga are already out in force by 5.00 a.m. We didn't join them but were happy to arrive home, thankful that we can enjoy holidays like that on a regular basis without a 12 hour plane journey before we get there!.