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Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 10: Paradise on Earth, Sapa!

Word to the wise... if you're someone who gets carsick easily, don't even think about coming to Sapa!  The van ride from the train station is an hour and a half long and is the most steep, windy and bumpy road I've ever ridden on!  Luckily, I don't get carsick, so I was just fine!  ...And when we arrived in Sapa, and saw the charming little town on the hillside, the ride was completely worth it! 

Once you get into the center of the town, there are about 4 different streets, leading in different directions!  We chose to go down this particular one...

... in search of this hotel, "Mountain View Hotel", which we had read about in Aaron's bootlegged/copied version of a Lonely Planet Vietnam book that he had bought for $2.00 the last time he was in Vietnam!

... and boy were we glad we found it, and knew to ask for a balcony room, because this is the room we were graced with!  Good old room 202!  If you're ever in Sapa and stay here, ask for room 202, 302, or 402!  They have the BEST views, 2 walls of windows, and a balcony to go with them!  This could, quite possibly be, one of my all time favorite hotel rooms!  (Oh, and it was only $25.00 a night!)

 This was the view looking out the big windows on the left... a full, unobstructed view of the vista down below!  Yes please!

We quickly settled in, and headed out on a day tour!  We hired this 17 year old Hmong tribal girl, who spoke English, to guide us along a 13km trek through the hillside!  These other Hmong women tagged along in hopes that Aaron and I would buy something from them at the end of the trek!  Can you believe they walk the whole way, just so tourists might buy something at the end!  That's a seriously long hike!  As you can see, they're all wearing the same thing... this is the Hmong tribes traditional outfit.  They wear this everywhere, all year round... and they're each handmade from hemp (AKA: Marijuana!) 

Our tour guide, Coo, pointed out special things along the way.  This is one of the tribes elementary schools.  Here I was thinking I had a great view from my classroom window in Busan, but this blows my view completely out of the water!  I, however, don't have to climb through muddy rice terraces to get to my classroom everyday!

We trekked for about 20 minutes before we came across our first little Hmong girl attempting to sell us a bracelet!  They're pesky little buggars, and repeat the phrase, "Buy from me!  Buy from me!"  You hate to be mean, but you literally have to ignore them, or be really stern that you don't want one, or they continue, and continue, and continue.  It's the only downside to Sapa, really.  And, I know it's probably easy to say, "Just give her a dollar!"  But, let me put things into perspective, in the 1st village we visited, there are over 3,500 residents... so you can't simply give a dollar here and there!  I'd be broke if I did!  :(

The vistas along the trek were incrdible, like nothing I had ever seen before!

The young children in the tribal villages are usually seen carrying sticks and seen walking behind large bulls, hitting them to keep them in line, or riding on top, guiding them to pastures.  Brave little suckers!

Ducks are eaten, just as much as chickens around these parts... unfortunately dogs are too.

Here's Coo (our guide), on the left, and one of her tribeswomen on the right who followed us the entire way.

 This is Lao Chai village... probably my favorite of the day!

 Introducing 17 year old, Coo!  She is one of 5 kids, 2 sisters and 2 brothers, and lives with her mom, dad, grandfather, grandmother, and some cousins in a little hillside grouping of homes... you'll see a picture soon!  Her older sisters are both married to foreigners!  One lives in the US, and the other in Australia.  She said a lot of her friends have been tour guides and actually married tourists who they had guided.  One of her 15 year old friends recently married a 62 year old European man after her family had disowned her for attempting to save money to attend high school instead of marrying a local tribesboy!  It's rough around here to say the least. 

It rained off and on during the 13 km trek, which made the path really muddy and slipery as we headed down the mountainside!

This was the 2nd village we trekked through, called Ta Van... and yes, people live here.

The views just kept getting better and better as we trekked.  At this point, we were walking through rice terraces and along steep, narrow and windy pathways...

Silly Aaron!  I think my posing has rubbed off on him and he's starting to see just how fun it is!

There are no paved roads in these tribal villages... rather, they trek through muddy, rocky pathways to get any and everywhere!  I can't imagine how in shape I would be if I lived here full time!

If you like stray, maingy looking dogs, then Vietnam is your place!  If you like stray, maingy dogs with super adorable fluffy puppies sleeping nearby, then Vietnam is definitely your place!

The local market...

If you like wild chickens running around your feet, then you'll especially love this place!

Coo and Aaron...

This village had just recently installed power lines, so Coo said they were really happy to be able to use TV's and telephones.  When walking by most of these tribal homes, and peeking in, I noticed one or two women playing with tons of little kids, with no lights on.  I'm not sure if it just keeps it cooler inside, or if they're used to it... either way, seemed kind of depressing to me.

This was the 3rd tribal village we trekked through, called Giang Ta Chai!

I'm seriously not sure if I've ever seen something more beautiful than this right here!  As Aaron and I were standing there, he leaned over and said, "It looks like it's straight from a fairytale book!" 

This old lady was my FAVORITE!  Everytime it was really slippery, she would hold my hand!  She definitely kept me from falling quite a few times!

"Aaahhh, Sapa, I love you!"

Local Hmong tribeswomen...

It really was amazing to see these young kids, completely unsupervised, handling these huge animals!

I couldn't get over all the houses and wanted to snap pictures right and left!  They're so beautiful in their own rite (sp?).

In the last couple kms, we passed by this shop, with this sign outfront... I'm not sure what the heck that's suppossed to mean! 

Since it was pouring rain, we stopped into the shop and I actually picked up a couple things... like this handmade scarf!  You can see the woman who runs the shop is actually in the middle of making another one just like mine!  Coo shoowed us how they're made, and it's a seriosuly labor of love!  It takes them over 5 hours to make 1 scarf!

At the bottom of the trek, we caught a van back up to Sapa... As we were riding, Coo told us her house was "down there," so I snapped a picture out the window!  Turns out, I snapped it just in time to capture her little village at the bottom of the frame!  She lives in the home with the lighter colored roof.

I also bought these two Hmong bracelets, one for my mom, and one for my sister, and the traditional Hmong scarf underneath is a gift to myself for completing such a crazy trek in the rain today!

We got to the hotel, showered, and headed back out for some dinner!   As we were walking down the street, we encountered these wild buffalos... just walking, calmly down the street!

I'm totally in love with the town of Sapa!  It's charming, vibrant, and beautiful!

Many of the tribeswomen trek or ride motorbikes up to the town center everyday to sell their handmade bags, blankets, earrings, bracelets, and scarves!  While they're beautiful for pictures, they're a bit pesky and become quite upset if you don't buy something from them!  We found it best to just ignore them... sad, but it worked.

We took a stroll through the local market... where we found this cage of crowded chickens...

... and AFTER...

Inside the market, they sold an array of stuff from scarves, toys, chopsticks, jewelry, tea, fish, chickens, rice, fruit... you name it!

These were the tiniest little apples I have ever seen!  They were the size of small limes! 

Aaron and I are suckers for Vietnamese spring rolls, so when we saw this lady making them in the market, we knew we needed to try them!  But then, when she handed us the bag with 5 spring rolls and enough grease floating at the bottom to fill an entire cup, we quickly changed our minds!  These were a sure way to give yourself an instant heartattack!

This beautiful tribeswoman from the Giang Ta Chai village was sitting on the street corner, selling handmade goods while sewing a future item to sell...  These women wear completely different outfits, and head dresses... and they shave the fronts of their heads to appear as if they have larger foreheads!  Who knew big foreheads were beautiful?!  I love it!

Lovely Sapa at dusk...

For dinner, we ate here at Michell Restaurant... a great choice!

I know, I know... we ate western food in Vietnam!  Hit me, why don't you?!  I wanted some pizza!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and called it a night!  Yep, I was asleep by 8:30pm!


  1. Jill! What an amazing trip! That one picture DOES look like a fairytale! What an amazing journey you are on! You always look perfect in every picture no matter how long the trek is! Cant wait to see more of your trip!

  2. Your pictures are so incredibly beautiful, I can't image what it was like in real life!!

  3. Wow Jillers!!! How stunningly beautiful is that town. That is amazing. One of God's hidden treasures for sure :)So lucky you got to see it first hand I just loved getting to relive it through pics. You look super cute treking through it all too. Love you sis!