. I had to suck up the lose and deal. Well, I get back to Hanoi and to my hotel. The offer me a room to shower and to get ready for my trip to Sapa. I still did not have the train ticket in my hand until 7:30 when the taxi came to pick me up. Around 7pm I went for dinner and realized that I should confirm with them my flight. So after dinner I went to the hotel and asked for the confirmation number or a ticket or an email confirmation. They could not give me anything. I sat there for 29 minutes trying to get someone on the phone, someone to show me an email but they could not. Finally the owner agreed in writing that if I did not have the flight he would give me triple the cost of the flight. I could have booked the flight online that would have been easy. But then I needed to get transportation to the airport which can be a pain. After that big disagreement, they rush me into a taxi to drop me off at the train station. They had also told me that transportation was included in the price of the taxi. So I arrive at the train station and leave the taxi. I turn around because I hear him yelling at me for not paying in Vietnamese. I explained in English I thought my hotel was paying and whatever. So I give him the first bill in my wallet, 500,000 dong (around $25.00 US). The actual cost was 33,000 dong (around $2 USD). So I give him 500,000 dong and he starts to drive off… I hop into his window and say “change”. So he gives me 200,000 dong. I then open the passenger door. He gets pissed at me but he was about to drive off with my money
. He gives me 100,000 dong more as if that would be enough to shut me up (he doesn't realize who he was dealing with) . After some yelling back and forth in the street and writing down on paper how much he owed me he FINALLY gave me the amount due to me. Sigh… such an issue.
I got onto the night train. My hotel ended up getting me a bed there and a seat on the way back. I was on the top bunk which most Vietnamese people do not like. I prefer it because it’s harder to steal my things from the top bunk. The train was so much nicer than the open air bus. We’ll worth the extra money. I had a hard enough time traveling from Nha Trang to Hoi An on the sleeper train which wasn’t that bad. The cars and buses all pass each other constantly on the roads so while trying to sleep on a double decker bus you feel the whole bus swaying. They try to sleep on it. If I had taken sleeping pills that would be fine, but I didn’t. So this worked out to be much better. I arrived in Lao Cai and then took a mini van for 30,000 dong ($1.50 USD) for an 1 ½ hour ride to Sapa.
Sapa is a beautiful mountains and valleys towering over all sides. Mountain women from the surrounding villages come up dressed head to toe in their indigenous clothing
. I think were their clothing because they really want to wear it. I don’t think they wear it for the tourists. The H’mong children are so cute. They learn their English from different tourist. They come up and ask you what your name is? How old you are? Where are you from? Do you have any brothers and sisters? They follow you all around town hoping to befriend you. Once you are their friend they ask you to buy from them. It’s a great tactic but so many of them do it, it becomes annoying.
At my hotel, a couple from Holland and two couples from France booked a two day tour to see the local minority villages. We started out at 9:30 am and hiked a bite and saw some really nice minority villages. We didn’t have a chance to sit and talk or learn about the people in each village. As we hiked it started to rain around 10:30 which obviously made the hike more difficult. I was doing great until an hour into the hike. We ended up walking down this really steep and slippery part which was extremely difficult. I fell twice (of course), almost fell off the mountain once, and almost feel too many times to count. Luckily, the H’mong women were there to catch me… literally. As we hiked they held our hands and walked us down the mountain. For me, the klutz that I am, one girl would put her foot out and I would slide my way to her foot. The walk itself was steep, the rain only made it worse
. It has been raining in Sapa and the surrounding villages for the past few days. As we hiked father we had to walk down the valley. China is making roads so the minority villages can have easier access to the other villages. However, this did not make for a nice view. We had seen many small landslides but then we came across one that was so bad we had no path to hike down. Our guide made inserts into the dirt and as we hugged the mountain we walked down. We finally made it after 6 hours of hiking 13km to the village of Ban Ho. Our guide Sang, brought us to a really nice home stay. We ran and took nice hot showers and relaxed until dinner was ready. When we realized we were going to walk up the same way tomorrow, we told her it was way too dangerous and wanted a van to pick us up. She agreed. After having a plentiful dinner she brought out the “happy water”. This is rice wine that the local family had made. It was so strong and smelled like whiskey I did not even enjoy it. It was interesting to taste but definitely not to drink regularly. Sang told us the only time she drinks is for a celebration such as a wedding.
Sang, continues to tell us that most people in her village (Cat Cat) most people get married at 14 years old. The boy will “kidnap” the girl from her village for 3 days and bring her to his village. There they get to know each other to see if they want to marry each other. After 3 days the girl can go home for a few days and decide if she wants to marry the guy. They will get married shortly after. At around age 19 the women will start to have babies. A typical family has around 15 children. Sang is 28 years old and still single… she doesn’t know if she will get married. When a guy and girl get married, the girl moves in with the guy in his village. The youngest son takes care of the mother
. Because of this, it’s very important to have boy children. The H’mong also know about divorce. Sang told us that someone in her village was married and after the women having 4 children all girls the guy left her and married again. The second wife would not give him any children, so he left her and married again. He now has his son. That guy does not talk to his four daughters. I asked Sang about Shamans or medicine man. She said that her sister married someone who is a Shaman but she has never seen him. They will treat illnesses but if it is serious, they will go to the hospital. Most of the H’mong people are either Buddhist or Catholic. If they are either they do not see a Shaman.
The next day of the hike we walked to another minority village where we saw a school and some local boys playing. Its summer vacation right now so obviously the school was closed. We also had a chance to go to a waterfall to go swimming. It was really nice since it was so hot outside and the hike was a bike hard to go to the village, to cold water felt really nice.
At 3pm the van was suppose to pick us up but she said it couldn’t come down. Instead we got on motorbikes which took us up the mountain. After about 10 minutes I saw two jeeps parked as well as huge truck. The truck was stuck in the mud which caused a huge traffic jam. Only motorbikes were able to get though.
Got back to Sapa OK. Everyone from my group showered and washed clothings. At night we enjoyed a nice dinner together. It was so nice going to sleep... a well needed rest after a long two days of hiking.
Throughout my whole trip I felt the Vietnamese people have been very fair with prices and have not "taken advantage" of the western traveler. Unfortunately, I cannot say that anymore. I met these two girls in Hoi An who suggested a place to stay with fair prices on tours. So I went there and they offered me very good prices on tours and on a room for one (because I am one and not two it is always more expensive). I booked the tour to Halong Bay, train to Sapa and back, day trip to Perfume Pegoda and a flight to Laos. It came out to $225 which is a lot of money considering the average salary is $100/month here. The morning I left on my boat trip to Halong Bay my tour guide got a call from my hotel. When I spoke with them, they said that they could not book my train to Sapa because they have no more beds. I had already negotiated a price for the beds not for the chairs. Since I was away I could not take ask other tour companies what their prices where nor could I wait until I returned to Hanoi to look since I was leaving that night