For my last day in Sapa I decided to take it easy and relax in this relatively peaceful mountain village before returning to the chaos of Hanoi tomorrow, though I’ll just be there very briefly. The other part of the reason for taking it easy is that I haven’t been feeling too good. My calves are aching and walking isn’t the easiest thing in the world at the moment. It started I believe the night I was on the train…I left my compression stockings (as well as all my clothes) on and since then it’s been getting progressively worse. My stomach has also been feeling a bit iffy today as well. So between the trouble walking and the stomach I felt it’d be better if I don’t strain myself to trek to any villages or anything today. I’m sure all the walking I did yesterday probably didn’t help much either.
Anyways, after my post last night I had dinner and then wandered around town, casually glancing at the merchandise that the various hill-tribe people were selling, as I particularly wanted to buy a shirt, as the ones they make are quite beautiful. Along the way I worked up this great conversation with a H’mong woman, who was really friendly and spoke very good English. We talked for a while and she told me about her family (I believe she said she had 6 kids, the oldest being 18. She was 42 and already a grandmother!) which was pretty large, as many of the hill-tribes have large families…more labor force. She also told me about her life a bit…her village was about a 2 hour walk from Sapa and she usually spends 4-5 days there per week and the rest of the time in Sapa, where she stays while she’s here to sell her goods. When she’s in the village she usually works in the rice fields. She was really nice and gave me a bracelet as a token of friendship. She didn’t have the shirt size that I needed but promised she’d have some larger sizes tomorrow (today).
I started walking and ran into her again! Her name, by the way, was Korea and this time she was with some friends who also spoke great English…another woman named Jo (the j is long) and a girl named Zao who was 17. Korea extended an incredible invitation to me to accompany her to her village today and spend the night at her house! Unfortunately, my ticket back to Hanoi is for tonight and I can’t really afford to spend any more time here! I told her that next time I came to Sapa I would definitely look her up and take her up on the offer! While I was talking to them they also taught me a few H’mong words (they have their own language), such as hello, thank you, how are you, and the ever useful I won’t buy. If that doesn’t work to get the vendors away, they also taught me how to say I don’t have any money!
I set off again, this time to the market and picked up a nice set of chopsticks, as well as holders for them, chopstick rests, and a nice box to hold all the stuff. In the market, I ran into Korea and her friends again! Her friend Jo introduced me to her daughter who is a local trekking guide who was having drinks in the market with her Vietnamese boyfriend and four people from the Czech Republic. They invited me to join them, and I did. We drank Bia Hoi, which is apparently quite the thing in Vietnam…it’s freshly brewed beer and is quite cheap as well. We also tried Apple Wine, a Sapa specialty which was quite good, and bamboo sticky rice…sticky rice wrapped in rice paper and cooked inside bamboo…also quite good, and also, I believe, a Sapa specialty. After all the drinks were empty we parted paths and I headed to bed.
This morning I had the joy of waking up to rain and enjoying a cold shower, as for some reason the hot water wasn’t working. I then set out to find Korea in the market, and I ran into Zao, but Korea wasn’t there. I had breakfast and returned to my hotel to have breakfast, pick-up my laundry, re-pack, and check out of my room. After I returned to the market and finally found Korea. I did buy a beautiful shirt from her for US$7, a nice belt from her friend Jo for US$4, and a pretty bag from Zao for US$5. They insisted on giving me loads of little bracelets to give to everyone I know, and even gave me this nice metal bracelet as well. I also bought this nifty little musical instrument from them which consists of something similar to a hair clip that you put between your lips and pluck the end to make music.
And that was the highlight of today. It really has been this incredibly low key day. I had lunch, at least what I could stomach, and walked a bit, but decided it was more important to take it easy and not strain myself. I’ve got a few hours to kill before the van ride back to Lao Cai. I will hopefully have time to have a peak across the river into China, as the last van leaves here at 6:30pm and the train leaves after 9pm. I’m also considering taking a slightly earlier van as well. I’m considering maybe getting a haircut before heading to Lao Cai. We’ll see.
In the next 24 hours I will hopefully be covering a lot of ground. I’m back on the train tonight and after a few hours in Hanoi in the morning, I’ll be heading by bus to Halong City, and then by boat to Cat Ba island, where I’m hoping to find internet access. My Czech friends last night recommended a different island, though that won’t work for me as the boat there leaves Halong City at 8am, and I won’t be there by then.
Anyways, Sapa has been wonderful and I’m quite glad that I came. I realized while looking at the photos that the rice terraces make the landscape resemble a topographic map! The coming 24 hours should be really interesting and I will certainly post if I can find internet tomorrow night.