Kia Ora from Hoi An, or as Dayna likes to call it “Hanoi” (understandable I guess since it’s just the same word rearranged).
It feels like we’ve done a lot of travelling since our last blog so here’s a bit of a run down on our last few days…
After the beauty of Halong bay we made another side trip from Hanoi to discover the beauty of Sapa, a small town in northern Vietnam near the border with China.
The main way in and out of Sapa is by a 9 hour train ride so we got our first taste of overnight trains but these ones were pretty flash tourist cabins. I had a pretty good sleep on the train once I found where I had hidden my earplugs (the train was super noisy).
We arrived just after 5am in to a misty Lao Cai station, about an hours drive from Sapa. The windy road up in to the hills took us deeper in to the misty fog so that, by the time we arrived, it felt like we were in the middle of the clouds.
Our initial, “slightly obscured”, view from our hotel reminded us of our trip to the Blue Mountains near Sydney a few years ago (where everything was hidden by fog). The fog didn’t lift for the whole first day so we just shuffled around in the fog exploring the town. Through the markets we walked past a stall with a cooked dog’s head on a stick and I nearly stood on a slightly bloated dead cat laying in the street but, other than that (and the constant squawking of local touts), it’s a nice place.
Luckily for us, the weather decided to stop taunting us on our second day in Sapa and we had a fine day to go out trekking through the rice terraces, hills and villages (the main attraction of Sapa).
Our local guide was a very cute local Hmong girl who only came up to about my belly button (I’m tall in Asia anyway but in Sapa, I am a giant). Turns out you don’t really need a guide as you can just follow the “Gringo trail” of tourists but she was good value and taught us a few interesting things.
She would point out all the different crops and plants like corn, different types of potato, ginger, chillies and this one here.
The temperature in Sapa was a huge relief after Hanoi (and pretty much everywhere else in Asia). It hovered in the mid to high 20’s so it was perfect for hiking around trails. We even got to wear jerseys at night and not completely melt (even putting on a shirt has been hard lately).
The endless terraces of rice paddies were beautiful and the photos we took don’t really do it justice but here are a couple from our trekking.
And there were animals all over the place…
We spent another day in Sapa trekking around ourselves without a guide and managed to avoid the local touts as well. These guys have a slight variation on their approach (as we’ve found most regions do) and their’s is basically to just follow you around the whole day befriending you (even on a long trek with their baby on their back) then ask you to buy stuff from them.
Unfortunately for them, we’re unemployed and therefore pretty stingy so they got nothing out of us. We’re pretty good at the “No, thank you” *smile, shake head* “No, thank you, we’re not shopping” (rinse and repeat until they give up or just change to ignoring them completely). This is getting a little boring though so I’ve started saying no in every language I know so that makes it a little more fun.
We’ve also thought of another approach to the really persistent guys that we’re calling “the angry german” (borrowed from Hitler in “Inglorious Basterds” – clip below in case you have no idea what I’m talking about).
We haven’t used this approach yet but it will probably happen at some point. Might be good for a laugh and who knows, maybe it will work.
After the overnight train from Sapa, we had decided to torture ourselves by setting up another overnight train for the next night. The hotel we stayed at in Hanoi was awesome and let us have breakfast and a shower for free but since we arrived at 4:30am and didn’t leave again until 7pm, we had a lot of time to kill.
We spent the day like we did most of our days in Hanoi – walking around getting lost, going to museums, dodging traffic and eating A LOT. The museums have been a bit of a let down so far (not much on show other than photos and propaganda) but the food is awesome. Even just walking around here is fun though. I always tell Dayna the best way to see a city is to get lost in it and we’ve taken to that concept completely here.
Our overnight train to Danang was in a more budget 6 berth hard sleeper cabin shared with 4 locals (for 15 hours!). They seemed nice but our only conversation with them didn’t go very far when we realised we couldn’t understand a word the other said. Smiling and nodding sufficed for the rest of our journey.
There were some breathtaking views as we went along the coast early in the morning which gave way to the rather boring looking Danang. Thankfully we weren’t hanging around so here we are in Hoi An, a beautiful little town near the beach (on which I am writing this) on the central coast of Vietnam).
It’s pretty hot here (36 degrees today) so about time for us to find a happy hour somewhere I think!