30 04 2010

What a wonderful couple of days we have just had,  we have been trekking in the Northern mountains of Vietnam around the town of Sapa. The area around Sapa is amazingly beautiful and is famous for its rugged mountains, terraced rice paddies and the indigenous Hmong People. There are several hill tribes in the area and we met many individuals from both the Black Hmong and the Red Hmong Tribes during our visit. A group of women from the Black Hmong trekked along with us for most of the first day and where very sweet. They are a very poor group of people but have a lot of pride. They do not beg but instead make handicrafts that they would like to sell, overall they were not too pushy and where genuinely appreciative of anything you purchased from them . We held off buying anything for quite a while until an older and very persistent woman finally won our hearts over after two days of quietly following us around and laughing and smiling at us every time we looked at her. We eventually broke down and bought a woven mat from her. After some hard bargaining we completed the transaction and she threw in a bracelet for Justyna and also made us a couple of cute horses out of woven grass before heading off back to her village. To get to Sapa we had to take a night train that left Hanoi at 8PM and arrived at 5AM in the town of Lao Cai. I love taking sleeper trains and other than the excessive heat in our compartment the journey was quite comfortable. Once in Loa Cai we took a mini bus up into the mountains and to the town of Sapa where we would start our trek. The plan was to trek 17-19km the first day but due to the beginning of the rainy season the trails where quite slippery and we decided to shorten the trip to 10km or so. This happened to work out in our favor because it had been raining on and off all morning and a big storm finally rolled through when we stopped for lunch. Thankfully we took a break at a little house when the storm hit which dropped several inches of rain and dime size hail for about twenty minutes. Along with this the winds gusted fiercely even blowing off a section of the roof of the house . The weather eventually settled down and we ate before continuing on our trek to a house we would steep at for the night.  We stayed in a village called Ta Van in a local family’s house and had a wonderful home cooked meal which included many traditional dishes. We all turned in early to get some rest for the trek the next day. The next morning I got up early to watch the sunrise over the mountains and take a walk through the nearby village. It was very nice to see the village waking up and how they began their days. Following this we all met up and had some breakfast before heading back out on the trek. We passed through several more small villages before we stopped at a nice waterfall. From there we hiked back to the road and had some lunch before taking a mini bus back up the mountain to Sapa. We spent the rest of the day exploring the markets, having a couple of beers overlooking the valley and enjoying a bite to eat before making the overnight trip back to Hanoi. We arrived back in the city at 5AM and walked back to the hostel where we poached some free breakfast again while we waited to check in to our hotel. We got a room around 8AM and got cleaned up before heading back out into the city. Justyna had decided she wanted to get her haircut and nails done so we found a nice place nearby where I left her for a while and went to take a walk around the lake. I made a stop at a cool bar on a 4th floor terrace overlooking the lake and had a couple of beers and talked to a nice Korean man I had met who was also traveling. We eventually met back up at the hostel where Justyna showed me her new hair cut and nails which she was quite happy with. In my previous post I had mentioned that we could not get out of town because everything was booked due to the holidays. Well it turns out that not only is it the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon but this year also turned out to be the 1000th anniversary of Hanoi so accordingly things in town where starting to ramp up to what would appear to be an eventful night. We grabbed a couple cups of coffee at a roof top café and watched as they set up stages and lights for the evenings festivities. We also did a little shopping and I bought a couple of shirts while Justyna bought a nice handmade silk dress and a top. We stopped by the hostel again to drop of our purchases and have a few happy hour beers before grabbing some street food for dinner from one of my favorite vendors. We made our way down to the lake where they had multiple stages with shows going on. The atmosphere was wild, they do not close the roads for an event rather the traffic eventually just comes to a stop as tens of thousands of people begin to crowd around to watch the performances and eventually the fireworks. We had to push our way through the crowd to get to the other side of the lake where after the fireworks Justyna and I went to see a water puppet theatre show. This type of performance is fairly unique to Vietnam and is where wooden puppets are mounted on long sticks and perform on a stage of water and are controlled from puppeteers behind a curtain in the back of the stage. We eventually waded back through the masses to get to our hotel to get a good nights rest. Today is our last day in Northern Vietnam and we are just hanging around as we have a night train to catch at 7PM and most things are closed due to the holiday. We will be travelling for 16 hours to the south to a town called Danang where we will likely catch a bus to the coast. We are not sure where we will wind up yet so I cannot say how long it will be before I am able to post again.

Early Arrival In Lao Cai

Black Hmong

Rice Paddies

Around Ta Van

Along The Trek

Hmong Child

Sunset Near Sapa

Sunrise Over Ta Van

Hmong Woman Carrying 50 Kilos

Water Buffalo Heading To The Fields

Hmong Child

Out In The Fields

Trekking Through A Bamboo Forest

Enjoying A Beer After The Trek

Justyna's New Hair Cut

Enjoying The Fireworks




2 responses

3 05 2010

Hi Justysia Hi Andy !
We miss you terribly, Ania wants to look at your pictures all day long, she was fascinated by those with kids, the child in a green shirt intrigues her the most, because she looks a little bit like her -I think. It sounds and looks like you are having a great time and I am mesmerized by the scenery. Please be safe, you know I am slightly (Heheheh) paranoid these days. Andy take good care of my sister and Justysia don’t let Andrew climb too high. We love you very much and can’t wait for the next post.
love the haircut

3 05 2010

Hello All,

The photos look great and I dig the hair cut miss!

Have you had any fried snake?

If you dont mind I would love if you could bring me back a water buffalo.
I herd they make great pets and are great for getting around town.


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