Cool Breezes Amid a Highland Town
Trip Start Feb 04, 2010
94Trip End Feb 12, 2011
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After regaining consciousness and feeling quite energetic, we grabbed a few weighty pain au raisins before wandering around the centre of Sapa. The cool mountain air was refreshing relative to the muggy streets of Hanoi, the Hoang Lien Mountains providing a fantastic backdrop for the town. Guidebook: Perched on a steep slope, Sapa overlooks a plunging valley of cascading rice terraces, with mountains towering above the town on all sides.
There were many locals and a variety of hill-tribe people walking the streets of this small town, all seemingly there to take care of the day's business that included buying or selling fresh produce, offering hand-made wares to foreigners and acting as a guide to their local village. The Dzao women could be seen with their red head scarves, beckoning to would-be buyers of their handicrafts, their big smiles usually providing a glimpse of a distinctive gold painted tooth. The Hmong women were also readily seen around Sapa, often in a full sprint in chase of a tourist minibus that had recently arrived, some women looking well into their 70s and capable of outrunning us if provoked. On more sedate occasions, they were seen displaying hand-made garments that were coloured with indigo dye, their beautiful attire including a melange of skirts and aprons, accented with silver jewelry, leggings and a sophisticated hat. Many cries of "Buy from me!" could be heard as soon as a foreigner moved within a handicraft seller's vicinity, regardless of whether that person had actually even seen the seller let alone their wares.
On our second day in Sapa, rain had set over the town early in the morning, thwarting our plans for a four kilometre loop via the nearby Cat Cat village in order to take in the surrounding valleys and get some insight into village life. However, by noon, the sun began to emerge through the grey clouds so we made the descent from Sapa along a windy, steep road along the hillside, passing terraced fields of rice while local residents made their way up in the opposite direction towards Sapa. Off of this main road, a stone walkway appeared leading us further down the valley wall, curving gently between handicraft stalls and eventually passing a small village of huts. Beyond the huts is a bridge the climbs over a small river and onto a viewing platform near a nice waterfall amid the confluence of two rivers. Water flowed down a man-made bamboo drainage system, dropping into a catchment that once filled, raised a large post before dropping it down again, essentially acting as a mechanized contraption that pounded what we thought to be rice. The trail curved back along one of the rivers and joined the main road that leads back to Sapa. After a hot, sweaty climb back up to Sapa, we lingered in a cafe before taking the minibus bus back to Lao Cai later in the day to await our night train back to Hanoi.