10.04.2012 - 14.04.2012 25 °C
So where next in Vietnam? My next stop is Sapa a mountain town north of Hanoi! Sapa is little market town with villages from the local tribal villages in the hills mingling around in traditional dress and trying to sell you EVERYTHING, you are not even off the bus –at 6am I would like to point out- and they bombard you with question and bags and everything except for coffee and breakfast which is the only thing I actually want after that bus journey.
Endaf, Reid and myself get a hotel room and decide that we don’t have the energy to hike to day so instead we decide to explore in the only way that three guys know how! Before we know it we are kitted with three motorbikes, three helmets and the worst road map ever! Leaving Sapa behind we head to the hills west and have a days riding that even the most experienced riders would have loved, going through valleys and little villages with backdrops that make you stop and stare every 5 minutes. We can to a village and get flagged down by this women signaling food outside her restaurant –I say restaurant- and decide it was time for lunch. Remembering I have only been in the country for only a week and everywhere I have been has been full of English speakers. So when it came to ordering I could definitely see that the woman was unsure how we were going to order anything. To her surprise and to mine if I have to be honest when I turned and two noodle soups in Vietnamese and she understood, I smile spreads across her face and off she runs and returns minutes later with our order and a look of 'did I do good?' written over her face. One of the things I have got used to since being travelling is that I always go off the tourist trail and always attract a crowd wondering why a white person is there. So by the time it came to leaving we have an audience. A perfect time to almost drop my bike and then struggle to start it.
Through out the countries I have visited on this trip and on previous trips I have always managed to be invited into people homes and to my joy we are sat back in Sapa and start talking to a local tribal woman by the name of Mú who invites us the next day to come to her house, stay with her family and see how they live. Mú lives in the hills over looking a valley outside Sapa. The next morning we head off to the hills and our home for the night. We arrive to this little hut that over looks the families paddy fields and a grand sprawling valley below. After we eat lunch I like the person I am offer the three of us to come and help plough the paddy fields. Mú was not only putting us to shame but she was doing it was a baby tied to her back and it was only this point that we work out that she is also with child as well. I as gentlemen make her sit down and rest while we finish the work –not there was much left. At dinner last night we get to meet the husband and extended family who come and meet us and introduce us the local drink of happy water, homemade rice wine which does exactly what it says on the tin. We spend the laughing and chatting with everyone. The one problem is no one but Mú speaks English but that has never stopped me before!
We arrive back in the town we are greeted from the normal chorus of “you buy from me” that fills the streets of Sapa from dawn to dusk but it changes when you return to “why you not buy from me?” and you are swamped with everyone trying to sell us everything they have. We run off to the safety of the hotel and collapse on the bed.
On the way back from Mú’s we bump into Carman (Hong Kong) and Thomas (Singapore) to people we met on our travels and arrange to go for a drink with them that night, Carman brings along a friend of her’s called Annie (England) and we head out for a drink. One thing that always happens to me when I am travelling is I always end up in the strangest bars and this time is no exception as I slowly work out when I take the others into Why Not? Bar which is of course run by the Mafia. All I can say to that is it can only happen to me.
The next day it was the time that we (the rapidly growing group) decided it was time to actually explore Sapa itself. The problem with exploring Sapa itself is you see most of it walking from bar to bar, or even getting anywhere actually. So grabbing a tourist map we head for the Cat Cat waterfalls. After a short walk down to the water full, which included a lot of stairs –who ever thought there was so many stairs in Asia- we sat at the bottom with a look of well what now. Then out of the blue Reid stands up takes of his top and flip flop, climbs of the safety chain and jumps into the water, with a look of smugness mixed with a shock with the unexpected feel of cold water. We all follow suit and sit in the water have a group sing along of Total Eclipse of the Heart and enjoying the sun! When we eventually climb out and decided that it was time for lunch. So we turned to the stairs, there is nothing worse than the thought of climbing stair after sitting in a waterfall I can tell you that. But like a miracle three motorbike taxis appear and the six of us climbing on a head for lunch. I think this probably was the funniest bike journey to date, not only did we have get off and walk the first 30 metres because the bike couldn’t make it up, we then struggled up the hill probably breaking the gears.
It was time to leave Sapa and head south from this point on, like all of my best plans I am leaving one place with no really idea where I want to go yet so we board the sleeper bus again and head once again back to Hanoi. The bus journey was an interesting journey I think the best ways to describe the sleeper buses is to describe the bed. The beds are about 5ft 7” long and don’t lay flat but instead you sit at a strange 45 degree angle. But on this bus we worked out that we could sleep at the back of the bus and the two tallest Endaf and myself have the two aisle beds and we can all sleep comfortably until the guy that was sitting next to me turned up. I huge guy about 6ft 7 and weight to match who then slept on my shoulder for the whole 10 hours and for good measure snored in my ear for good measure. I have never been so happy to get off a bus in my life.