Thousand Happy Souls in Sapa

Trip Start Feb 16, 2010
1
8
22
Trip End Mar 09, 2010


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Where I stayed
On the friggin train

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Woke up just in time for breakfast, room checkout and ready to leave for day trek to Lao Chai and Ta Van village at 9am. Chu was our guide again in a smaller group of 4. It was a long 1 hour downhill trek before we trekked through rice paddy field tracks off Ylinhho village. Trekking through fields on snaking paths, we arrived at Lao Chai village for lunch. The trek was amazingly stunning. The real experience here was really trekking through the village community, navigating the very same paths the tribes have been using.
 
Stopped at this little homestay hut to sample a cup of hemp milk - tasted much like rice milk but creamier. On the way to Ta Van village, Chu pointed out her home. A local woman was washing her laundry at the water bank. I asked Chu and was astonished that no sewerage system is in place. The fresh water comes from the mountains and streams into the villages. They would use any water that come down their way for home use and rice fields. All blackwater would be discharged down the hills to lower plains, meaning the next villages. They have electricity though.
 
We passed Ta Van Village and were really fortunate to see the village's celebration of the end of lunar new year. There were games and food stalls in a big field where many gathered. The main game was this big dart board raised at least 20 metres high on a long bamboo pole. The locals tried to throw a small bag of soil wrapped in coloured fabric with a tail of ribbons. The aim was to try and hit the dartboard. The prize was said to be about vnd 400 000. There were at least a dozen of these flying about, accompanied by the excitement of the locals when some throws managed to touch the sides of dartboard. The other game was a long bamboo pole across the stream. Anyone who crosses it without falling into the stream, gets vnd 120 000.
 
Then the race was on for a bunch of boys to run up terraces of rice paddies to claim 3 coloured flags. The atmosphere was simply electric. Suddenly someone hit the dartboard's bullseye and the celebration ended all of a sudden with everyone started to head home. On the way out to the pickup point, I bought a sugarcane pole for vnd 10 000, enough for 5 sticks. Chu helped to scale off the fibreous skin with a machete like a pro. We met Chu's little toddler brother, so he got a sugarcane treat from me.
 
Back to hotel for early dinner and left for Lao Cai which took 1 hour. The drive down Sapa was windy but the views of rice paddies etching into the valleys of mountains were simply stunning. The entire stay at Sapa was so magical that sadness lingered when the bus made its way to Lao Cai. Back at Lao Cai, there were some confusion on where i should pick up my train ticket because it was pre booked. It was sorted in the end - all about waiting at the right restaurant.
 
Met the 3 french ladies again (from Halong Bay & Sapa) in the same carriage. Shared their whiskey, their recommended accommodation in Hoi An & Dalat, and also their horror stories in Ho Chi Minh City. Seems like muggings, pickpockets and random communist police raids on cheap mini hotels are pretty common in HCMC. And these were different accounts from different travellers I had met. Night on the train was alot more peaceful this time. Though I could hear the french ladies laughing away in their cabins - celebrating their end of a journey in vietnam. 
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