Thursday 14th August
…and woke me up 6 hours later! Not a bad sleep at all for a bumpy overnight train ride. Through the window you could see the rice fields and bamboo everywhere. Everything was wet and it was raining quite hard but it was a lovely green view.
We got off the train about half 7 and found our tourguide van man, holding up a paper with Francisco Tavier on it. Jeje so Javi becomes Tavi for now. On a bus we jumped with about 10 others and our hour long drive through the mountains began. It was actually a really cool drive, very windy roads and consistently steep but we had the windows open and the air up here is so fresh and clean and cool – very refreshing.
After lots of pretty but restricted views due to so much trapped cloud between the hills we arrived at the town of Sapa. It seemed to come out of nowhere and is quite a pretty little town, tons of coffee shops and bars and hotels but then little markets down the side streets full of the local tribespeople. There are several different tribes in these mountains and they all have their own language, how cool is that. These people wore amazing clothes, black layers topped with hand sewn very colourful patches of material. They’re also very beautiful, the young women. Immediately when the van doors are opened they are almost climbing inside asking “where you from, what’s your name, come buy from me later, only from me, not maybe, maybe sure, promise promise.” Not too pushy though.
We all trundled into our hotel, called Grand View, which it’d definitely have if the clouds would go away, left our luggage in a storage room and promptly were served breakfast. Straight after one of the local women, dressed in their beautiful traditional clothes, introduces herself as Dong and we set off on a 5km trek to the local village and waterfall.
Walking first along a gravel road and then a rocky path we made our way to Cat Cat Village, a village built on the hillside consisting of a few wooden houses and lots of wooden shacks selling all kinds of things – traditional and western clothes, hand crafted items from wood and stone, food, drinks, umbrellas (all the tourguides had umbrellas and we were all in our macs). Next stop was Tien Sa Waterfall which was pretty and loud with all the crystal clear water gushing down over the rocks. They had built these big wooden water pouring contraptions too to help the water go down hills, they were really interesting. Moving on we followed the stone path (not stopped raining yet and now I have my camera bag under my mac so my arse is getting wet instead) along Flower Stream, which I would call a river but hey. This led us up a LOT of tall steps to a cool swingy wooden rope bridge – it bounced with every step which was fun hehee. Then we circled back round the village schools and back up the long windy gravel road to the hotel. Now this doesn’t sound too strenuous but for a start we were constantly looking at our feet so we didn’t slip over, the terrain was chunky rocks and also the rain makes everything harder anyway. Not moaning at all, don’t get me wrong we were enjoying the cooler temperatures and also I especially was enjoying the greenery and foliage and flowers and fresh mountain air – it was lovely.
When we got back up to the hotel, very sweaty indeed, lunch was served almost immediately at 12.30pm, and we tucked into chicken, fried pork, veg, rice, salad, fried sea bass and more. Delicious and unlimited refills! The afternoon was free time so maybe you’ve already guessed right – yep we had a good couple hour long siesta. A real bed makes all the difference. The room is gorgeous, huge and full of heavy wooden furniture, and a perfect balcony that’s again, waiting for the clouds to move on.
Meals here are on a semi tight schedule so we’d been told 6pm for dinner. We went for a wander up to the town beforehand and at a quaint coffee shop had a beer and tasty jasmine tea, then back to the hotel to fill our bellies again. I held and played with a six month old baby of the staff – was sweet but absolutely massive! Like seriously, ths people here are tiny and when the mother held the baby the kid was bigger than her whole torso! No wonder she was so keen to let me hold her, she weighed a ton hehee. Littls pudgy sweet thing – Courtney you would have loved her rolls and her cheeks that were so big she couldn’t really smile. Over dinner we caught up with the couple from Holland and made good friends with another Spanish couple and a young couple from Israel who had impeccable English and the guy a fantastic sense of humour – he had the whole table laughing the whole dinner. After food it was only half 7 so we decided to go over the road to a little cafe/bar perched on the edge of the hill. It was pitch black of course by now and we were fascinated by moths the size of birds swooping round the lights and eating the smaller bugs. We had a beer and a laugh and then all came back to the hotel for bed. We laugh about it being so early but like I’ve said before, here life begins at like 7 or 8am and the day is busy, it gets dark at half 6 so your body shuts down about half 7. No problem in my book!
We went to the desk at reception to get the key and thought there was nobody there but then caught a glimpse of the top of a head behind the computer. So Javi started saying hello and as we reached the desk and could see over the top there sat the three year old son of the staff, sucking on a milk bottle and watching cartoons on youtube, perched on the top of the high stool. It made us laugh so much! We then proceeded to have swordfights with him with the keys, so funny and so damn cute.
It’s now 10.30pm as I finish this (really was desperate to catch up blogging, so annoying being a day behind! ) Javi is asleep beside me and my eyes are closing. Our trek tomorrow is harder, 15km and apparently very slippery if it rains more the tourguide says! We’ve discovered we can hire wellies from the hotel so may do that. Or just use our walking boots. Decide in the morning. Shutting down now. Thumbs cramping… g’night.