We took an overnight train to Sapa and shared it with two others. We had relied on the staff at Hotel Charming II in Hanoi to get the tickets for us (there are at least 3 different companies that go to Sapa overnight daily.) and they also arranged for a cab to take us to the station late at night with a staffer going along on motorcycle. The staffer waited with us to boarding and also took our suitcases to our train car.
In the very early morning, we saw a lot of small villages and rice paddies along the way.
We got off the train at Lao Cai (population 100,000+) which is a bustling cross-border business town very close to the border with China. The town was pretty much destroyed during an invasion with China in 1979, and the border stayed closed until 1993. It has been a trading town since ancient times.
After getting off, we found the van that we had ordered in advance through Sapa Sisters. We could have found one on our own, but we were tired, and this was expedient. The road to Sapa was VERY windy for the 38 kilometers (22 miles) and the ride took over an hour uphill. The van driver eventually got us to the Family Guest House (Luong Thuy Family Guest House, a clean simple hostel/hotel around the corner a bit from the bustling area of Sapa. I found out a few days later that the shops across the street were simpler and a bit less expensive than other parts of town.
|Marcy's meal--an omelet, etc.|
|Cute dining area|
|Decorations on wall of eating area|
We got a cab to our hotel, the Sapa House, a new hotel a few blocks uphill from the main part of town. We asked for a room with a mountain view, which we would have had if the fog and clouds had lifted, but we were out of luck. However, our room was huge and lovely. The screen to the left was actually a shade which retracted, dividing the main room from the bathroom. What a lovely touch! Note the lovely tapestries and pillows on the bedwith Hmong embroideries on them.
|First trimming and topping the bamboo|
|Hauling some away|
|Throwing some down to the ravine behind the stand of bamboo|
|Beautiful pillow cover--yes, I bought it|
|Woman selling hats along side of the road|
|Selling items along street down the hill from our hotel|
|Market entrance area--after going down a flight of steps|
|Food for sale|
|Little girl in traditional clothing|
|Spices for sale, but no details in English|
|Surrounding a tourist(not a lot in town)|
|Dad carrying couple's daughter on HIS back|
|Typical narrow, hilly tourist street in Sapa|
|Fire for heating water and getting rid of some garbage|
|Tourist boat on artificial (?) lake|
|One of my favorite shots.|
|Everyone has a cell phone!|
In addition to items made by Hmong and (in some cases) finished to make "fancier" pillow cases, wall hangings, etc., a lot of North Face clothing items were also for sale as well as items from other countries that have factories in Vietnam. We were not sure if they were seconds, last year's stock, or ripoffs. I did get a Kipling brand nylon multi-pocket fanny pack for about $10 that fit me much better than any ones (other brands) that I had seen in Seattle. (Kipling brand began in 1987 in Belgium).
There were not a lot of tourists in town when we were there, and the only other Americans we ran into happened to be from a suburb of Seattle! Although it was definitely a tourist town, it had a special atmosphere, and the people there were extremely nice and friendly.
Next, on to the final blog from this trip...our 2 day trek outside of Sapa.