Gooood Morning Vieeetnam :)
Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
38Trip End Jun 12, 2009
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Anywayzzz the first couple of days was spent walking around the lake and taking in the sights...along with getting used to just walking out in front of a sea of scooters and hoping they dodge you while you cross the road. We have been in contact with a friend from home..Tom Mills, he is in Indonesia at the moment and will be landing in Vietnam tomorrow night...we have booked him into a hostel and will be arranging transport from the airport for him...so now our travels will be in a group of three :) Not sure for how long we will see!
To fill the time, and also an attempt to get out of a lazy streak we seem to be having recently aka late mornings and TV we booked a tour to see the hill tribes of Sapa, north west Vietnam. Eating lunch about 40 Min's before having to meet up at the tour office to head to the train station Zoe did an "Oh MY GOD!" and realised she had left her document wallet under the mattress of our last bed for the night. She ran out of the door in a panic... i offered to go, but in a flash she had legged it. 20 minutes later Zoe returns document wallet-less, zo couldn't find the guest-house... with 15 Min's before the tour left it was my time to leg it... so off i ran. Straight to the guest-house, i grab the document wallet and realise I'm not gonna make it in time.... no choice but to flag down a bloke on a motor bike... he hands me a toy helmet (worse than one you would use for a push bike), i had trouble getting him to give me a price, but with time running low i jumped on, grabbed on and hoped for the best. He weaved through the mass of scooters pretty skillfully, it was quite a fun ride... not so fun was the fact that he was acting like a taxi driver and turning round to ask me questions as we whizzed along (Name, from and all that )...anywayz i got to the tour office in time, and the bugger stung me on the price... 50,000 dongs instead of the 10,000 it should have been, only a difference of 1.10 quid and being in a rush i accepted it. We made it to the train station and the overnight train...next morning at 5:00 am -> SAPA
The first day was a visit to Cat Cat Village, it was only a small 3 hour trek from our hotel in Sapa and was worth the walk. We first walked through a market ...lots of cheap goodies to pick up, if your into wall hangings and pillow cases. Also lots of food, if your into fruit and half a roast dog :) Within the village we walked amongst the Black Hmong minority, mainly women and lots of small kids as the men are usually to be found working away in the mountain. We noticed a round mark on the foreheads of some women and asked our guide the reason.... as he explained, because they don't have any medicine, when they get a headache they will burn the base of a bulls horn and stick it to their forehead as a cure.... because it is so hot it leaves a mark! He also explained another tradition about marriage. If a guy decides he likes a girl he will capture her, even if she cries he will hold her in his house or hut or wherever he sleeps for three days.... "it does not matter if the girl cries" if the man manages to hold the girl for three days they then have to get married! (he said laws were changed to stop this from happening now.)
The only disappointing thing about Sapa was the weather....maybe not the weather, just the fact that we were living in a cloud for three out of the four days. The one positive from cloud dwelling, was the reminder of home at night...it felt like a foggy Christmas eve.. ohhhh how i felt so festive :-P
Another day another trek, this time we headed to Muong Hoa a gorgeous valley in Sapa. We took in the rice terraces, green mountains, a bunch of yer standard farm animals, including buffalo (i think buffalo...maybe ox?). Along the way we went through three different villages. The first two belonging to the Black H'mong people called "Y Linh Ho" and "Lao Chai" the last village called "Ta Van" belonging to the Zay people. This was an easy trek, some balancing needed when walking the narrow paths between rice terraces, but other than that it was pretty easy. From the start of this day we were followed by the H'Mong people.. they ask you the usual name, age questions... you do the same and if needed they help you along the way...as always it was quite a good laugh to chat to them and as expected at the end they attempt to sell you stuff. Their prices are a little more than the shops, but as you know they have made these their-selves you don't mind paying. As it turns out, i actually am a fan of wall hangings and pillow cases as i bought a load. They had a kind of tag team thing going on with the Zay people as after lunch they say good bye and the Zay then follow you along, and at the end ya buy their stuff....more pillow cases yey!
The end of this day we were to stay with a family in a "traditional home-stay" i was pretty excited about this, the thoughts of sitting around with the family, chatting, watching them cook, just experiencing the way of the Zay people at home. And from other travelers we had spoken with it is quite an experience. When it came to our "traditional home-stay" experience we had a menu, dorm style sleeping area, a TV with the option of Karaoke, and Jenga Yey! It wasn't bad or anything, just not the experience we had hoped for...and as always it differs between tour operators...for this section of the tour we had picked the wrong one... ahh well...a night of jenga and shots of "corn wine" cant be bad ay?
The next day was a trip to Giang Ta Chai, a Red Dzao village, and then across Muong Hoa river, up the hill to Su Pan and Hau Thao ( 2 Black H"Mong villages), located on the side of Den Thang mountain range. It was a tad higher on the difficulty rating due to the mud and steep hills...i fell over only once and covered my ass in the gloopy mustard sludge. We also stopped halfway up an impressive waterfall and trekked through a bamboo forest. Using my Ray Mears skills given to me at birth i did a half ass job of cleaning up my boots with a leaf and stream water. The day ended with a bus ride back to Sapa and a gorgeous chocolate pie at the local bakery. I also built my first house of cards :)
With four months of travel behind me i attempted to be a "super smart and nifty traveler" by leaving all of my luggage in Hanoi apart from a small backpack containing one spare T-Shirt, underwear, towel, and wash gear..... i only took the trousers i had on. Instead of being the nifty traveler i was aiming for i ended up being a "wet, cold, muddy, unprepared nobber" and spent the remaining night and day with sweaty smelly t-shirt and boots, and wet trousers...yum!
I'm all cleaned up now and the washing machine is spinning so its all good :) The last day was free time to explore Sapa...we spent it playing cards and eating more chocolate cake as we had a feel for Sapa earlier in the trip. After a very scary super sonic bus ride along steep mountain roads we were fed and back on a night train to Hanoi. Arriving at 5:00 am we minced about until our bags were available at 7:45 then checked into our hostel. Thats when we made it here a backstreet Internet cafe to write our blogs.
As we stocked up on books for SE Asia i finished one during the Sapa tour called "PIMP" it was on the bargain rack in Hong Kong... since getting it the cover has fallen off along with a chunk of pages. It is the story of "Iceberg Slim" a ruthless Pimp growing up and pimping in the states. It was an OK read...after getting past all the gangster slang (i spent half my time in the glossary) it was an interesting insight into the disgusting, gruesome world of a pimp. What a sad and disgusting profession... murder, women beating, on top one day with a stable of 6 whores - down and out the next when they get stolen by a flashier richer pimp, the inevitable threat of prison and the main retirement option of death!
Anyyyywayz... we are gonna relax today and meet up with Tom Mills tomorrow... the plan after that is to take a trip to Halong bay , which involves a large wooden boat, kayaking, swimming, beach time, and ranting around an island on a motorbike. From Halong bay.....head south.
Can view all pics here : http://www.flickr.com/photos/discozo/sets/ the rest of my vietnam pics are under "Vietnam 1 (Tom)"
Ta ta for now