Sapa – Our Heads in the Clouds

People already know that my geography skills are lacking but Sapa was not even on my radar before coming to Vietnam. Throughout Vietnam we had heard only good things about this mystery place so we added it to the itinerary to see what all the fuss was about.

The night bus from Hanoi to Sapa was one of the worst so far. A 10 hour bus journey that turned into 16 hours thanks to a stop in the middle of no where to wait out a storm was not the most pleasant way to start this trip!

The last hour of the drive was actually the best part. The views from the road over looking the tribal villages nestled away in the towering mountains was a welcomed site away from the bustling city of Hanoi.

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When you get off any bus in South East Asia you are usually bombarded by taxi drivers trying to get your business however in Sapa it is local tribal women that surround you. That was a bit different for us and we quickly got talking to them. Soon we caught on that they were there of course trying to sell something, that something being a trek and homestay at their village.

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In fact this ‘bombardment’ is the one negative thing i have to say about Sapa, as it’s not just at the buses that they are there. They hound you all through the main streets and follow you asking ‘you buy something from me’, ‘where you from’, ‘how old are you’. As you can imagine it get tiresome pretty quickly and the tribal women soon loose their charm that they first had.

In spite of that Sapa is a beautiful place, high up in the mountains, you are surrounded by wonderful scenery which ever way you turn. You quickly understand why this place is well known for the wonderful treks that you are able to do.

Our first port of call was to meet up with two of the girls we were on Halong Bay with to say goodbye to them before they travelled back to England after 6 months of travelling. We were very sad to see them go and extremely jealous that they get to go home and see their friends and family. They have shared some amazing tips about South America with us and got us very excited about specific countries.

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Our first full day we hired mopeds and took to the hills! I’ve never driven on such a stunningly scary, windy, beautiful looking road as this one! Built alongside the hills the views were insane the whole journey. I think we were off the bikes taking photos more than we were on them. We stopped at a couple of waterfalls, drove through loads of villages and took far too many photographs of rice paddies!!

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We drove until the road came to a junction which was around 100km from Sapa, a pretty sturdy drive for a beginner 😉 we then turned back as you could say we were ‘lost’, but I don’t think your ever lost if you don’t have a destination (travellers lifestyle). With enough gas to take us home we swung the bikes around and headed back. The nearer we got to Sapa the colder and darker it got, this was because we literally were driving into the clouds. The heavens opened, the macs came out and we powered home through the torrential rain – it was freeeeeezing!!

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We made it back, fingers blue, feet soaking – that’s when we all wanted a cup of English tea and hot cross bun to warm us up! That was only going to happen in our wildest dreams, so we showered and headed out for some warm food instead!
Hiring a bike is definitely the best way to see South East Asia, and I’ve had some of my most memorable days out riding! Official biker chick 😉

We booked ourselves on to a trek for the following day. We were first quoted $25 for a day tour, thought that was pretty good, walked down the road to compare prices and were quoted $11 for the exact same trek!! Without even haggling we got it cheaper than half price!! That’s a word of warning to anyone traveling through Asia, sales people can always do it cheaper, always haggle and if the price is not dropped you will find a cheaper price somewhere else! I would go as far as to call Fran and I pro hagglers now!

The trek took us through 3 different tribe villages, up and down huge hills and through thousands of rice paddies. Every night we have stayed here Sapa has had the craziest storms all throughout the night. And the night before the trek was no exception – so bad in fact that we woke early and our usual view from the hostel window was no more and was blocked by huge thick clouds that had rolled in with the storm.

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We thought the trek may be cancelled! No health and safety regulations in this country so of course the trip went ahead and the weather thankfully cleared up. I did slip in the mud, a lot, even with my new posh walking boots on. We were joined the whole way by local tribes women and I wouldn’t of been able to do the walk without them. I constantly grabbed their hands before I landed on my bum, especially down the muddy steep slops that surround the rice paddies. They made me feel so inadequate though as they walked down beside me in their plastic flip flops!! HOW ON EARTH??
It was a worth while trip and we got to walk through the villages that lie in the valleys on these huge hills and see some more amazing views.

We spent our last day in as many coffee shops as we could waiting to catch our night bus back to Hanoi. We really enjoyed Sapa, and were very pleased we took the time to visit.

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