We slept fairly well, except for around midnight when we were awoken by an East Coast vs West Coast hip-hop battle that had exploded on the speaker downstairs where people in our trekking group were still keeping the party going. We managed to shut it out somehow and fall back asleep till 7 am when the sun woke us up.
We headed downstairs to admire the view and chat with other in our group who had gotten up already as well. Ming, our guide, and the host family, were pretty slow to get up and start on breakfast. It seems the rice wine had hit them a little harder than they had planned and our start time for the day kept moving from 8.30 to 9.00 to 9.30 and finally 10.20 when we actually headed out after a breakfast of banana and honey crepes which were delicious.
We hiked along, balancing on the edges of rice terraces for quite a while. Occasionally one of us (usually the hungover French guy) would make a wrong step and sink calf deep into the mud from the rain the day before. After a little while we arrived at a stone waterfall that was quite beautiful and we stopped for a while for picture taking and admiring the views. Lynn was very brave and walked out onto the slippery rocks for some pictures before heading back to safer ground.
Having had our fill of sightseeing we headed down the mountain to the river below. Ming asked if anyone was interested in swimming in the river and no one was since we had been told we had 8 km to hike today and we had only gone maybe 3 and it was getting well past lunch time. So we continued up the other side of the valley where at the top of the hill we found a little restaurant that we went in for lunch. And much to our surprise we were told we had finished the hike. Either my fitbit is way, way off or we had gone no where near 8 km but either way we were all glad to be sitting down to lunch and some water after a very hot and humid (albeit short) hike.
We all talked amongst ourselves for a while, again fending off woman selling purses and bracelets fairly successfully. Poor Damian was sitting on the end and swarmed with them, I think he ended up with 3 bracelets, a purse, and a headband. After an hour of waiting for food (the kitchen was “very busy”) we were brought bowls of 10 cent ramen with a fried egg in them. None of us were very impressed but being quite hungry we ate it all up.
After lunch, a mini-bus took us on a very harrowing 40 minute ride along some cliffs back to the hotel in Sa Pa where we had started our hike two days ago. It’s always a little depressing when something that took two days to hike is covered really quickly by the return trip.
We were given a room to shower in and upon seeing it Lynn and I both firmly decided we would never actually sleep in this hotel. Large chunks of wall tiles were missing, exposing the pipes behind them, and the shower head had been ripped out of the wall so you had to hold it in your hand the whole time. At least the bathroom door hadn’t been kicked in I guess.
Freshly showered Lynn and I wandered out and said goodbyes to some in our group who were in the lobby before walking around Sa Pa to see what it offered. Tourist restaurants and knock-off North Face stores it seems. And lots of them. In fact that was almost every store we saw on our walk. We also shopped for hats for Doug to replace his too small yakult swallows hat, but didn’t see any that struck his fancy.
After walking around town for a few hours we decided it would be a good idea to grab a snack before the bus and trains rides ahead of us. Partially to ward of car sickness and partially because we didn’t trust the sandwiches the hotel was sending us off with. There was a place called Baguettes and Chocolate that we had walked by earlier that we thought might have chocolate croissants so we headed that way.
Inside the cafe we found they did not, in fact, have any chocolate croissants but they did have six people from our hike eating a late lunch for the same reasons we were looking to so we sat down and joined them for an overpriced club sandwich for me (and again a pitiful smattering of fries) and a salad for Lynn who was craving some greens.
We headed back to the hotel where we packed a mini-bus to the brim and began the long winding path back down the mountain to the train station. Lynn and I and another girl from our hiking group tried to distract ourselves from the hour long bomb down the mountain with some conversation but eventually even that wasn’t enough to fight off the sharp cornering and drifting across lanes. We finally made it down and broke out of the van for some fresh air only to be surrounded by cigarette smoke all around us.
With another two hours to kill until the train and no one feeling very well we sought out some Sprite and bland belly filler which we found in the most expensive white bread covered in margarine we have ever seen but it did do the job.
Feeling better we again said goodbye to our group and headed off to our train which was an hour earlier than everyone else’s. We successfully found our train beds, shockingly even without the help of a hotel bellhop to decipher the English on our tickets, and climbed in.
Moments later our bunk mates appeared and we kicked off a great hours long conversation that featured everything from American and British politics (they’re from London and it seems everyone loves to talk about American politics when they find out we’re from the land of George Bush) to the West Wing and Lynn’s love of old woman British mystery shows. Finally we decided it was time to try and sleep so we all climbed in our bunks and fought the violent jerking of the train to fall asleep.
Daily Walking Mileage: 10
- If you need knock off North Face gear Sa Pa is the place to be.
- We learned from others in our group that the awful overnight train is still better than the overnight bus.
- The words for “shut up” and “thank you” are nearly identical, which is not great for people who poorly pronounce Vietnamese.