Day 260 – 263 (21st & 24th May) – Sapa

9 06 2011

We have been told that the weather in Sapa (the rural mountainous north of Vietnam close to the Chinese border) can be unpredictable. We therefore sensibly planned to be here an extra day on account of the probable bad weather. This sensible plan was nearly undone with some very bad time keeping, as we very nearly missed our overnight train up to Lao Cai.

The following morning as we pulled into Lao Cai on the train it had to be said the weather wasn’t the best, very grey and overcast. We then took a mini bus transfer up the mountain to Sapa ascending into thick cloud. With the supposed stunning views of steep valleys, remote villages and paddy fields all shrouded in thick cloud this was starting to look like a massive waste of time.

After checking into our hotel we took a walk around town and went for breakfast. With all this mist and fog we couldn’t help but get an ominous eerie feel from the town. It kind of felt like a Stephen King novel. You know, the only mountain road in or out of town is inexplicably cut off and then this mist and fog rolls in and then people start getting killed. Unfortunately nothing interesting like that happened.

However, in the afternoon the mist did clear giving us a chance to explore a few of those remote mountain villages by scooter. It felt great to be once again out in rural Vietnamon a bike. Obviously very different to what we saw on our bike in Hoi An, but equally nice. It seems to be the ethnic minority’s, the Dao, Tay and Giay’s that work the tough mountainous land to grow rice and corn.

On our second day the weather was glorious; brilliant blue skies and warm sunshine. It’s a shame we spent so much of the day on a mini bus driving to and from Bac Ha Market. Bac Ha Market is a real tourist trap of a market. It’s great because all the local villagers come to Bac Ha Market on a weekly basis to buy goods and many of them still wear their traditional colourful clothing, and for a small fee they are happy’ish for you to take a photo. However, the problem with Bac Ha Market is that the villagers come to the market to buy stuff like batteries or cheap plastic sandals, not herbs and fine spices. This said if you looked for it, it was possible to find some interesting market activity like; cattle being auctioned, dodgy cuts of meat being sold and furious gambling. Their other smaller, probably more authentic and less touristy markets we could have gone to. It was hard to get that authentic market photograph without there being a tourist with a camera in the background.

It’s no surprise that the worse toilets we have seen inVietnamare on the Vietnamese – Chinese border. Filthy, no paper, no water and someone tried to go for number two’s in the urinal; tried being the operative word. We’ve taken a year out to see and experience things, but not this…

Our last two days were complete white outs with constant thick fog leaving us little to do but eat, chill out, go for massages, a dip in the hot tub, and a short, wet and pointless scooter ride through the thick fog. The weather has been very frustrating as this was a very beautiful part of the world, however we just couldn’t see it!

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