We begin with an apology, the third post from our Vietnam tour should have come weeks ago but things have been insanely hectic. However, now seems like the best time possible since we recently returned from Thailand. (Thailand post coming soon.)
One of the great features of Hanoi is that you are just an overnight train away from Sapa. Sapa is a mountainesk town frequented by hikers, adventurist and those looking to see something other than the busy buzzing streets of Hanoi.
We boarded a train departing Hanoi and headed up into the mountains. The train was interesting, close quarters where we shared a pair of bunk beds with a couple we had never met from the Netherlands. We arrived in Sapa after sleeping on the train and an hour bus ride into the hills of seemingly endless rice patties.
We quickly showered and changed, ate breakfast and then went on an all day hike. We were lucky enough to meet people from two of the ethnic groups in the Sapa area, both the Black Hmong and Red Dzao.
Along our journey on the first day we encountered many homes and people who were kind enough to chat with us and tell us about their lives in the hills. It was truly an eye opening experience that made you realize how much we all take for granted. These people have so little in comparison to many of us and yet seem very content and happy with their standard of living. Honestly, they lived at a level of poverty that is dramatically below what you the average American think when they hear the term poverty.
Children seemed to spend most of the day hiking in order to get to town and try to sell goods or meet with friends. They walk long distances and play with sugar canes, plastic bags and raggedy dolls. The highlight of the day certainly was being invited into the home of a local family. They made an amazing meal from scratch and then served us in their “living room.” The food was cooked over an open fire and the home was simply decorated with a small wicker basket containing all five toys their son had to play with and three plaques on the wall, the first a certificate of marriage, the second the birth certificate for their son and the last was the deed to the home and land. They invited us to share rice wine and eat pork with an array of Vietnamese vegetables and dishes. It was very elaborate and delicious.
We also spent some time walking into and exploring some caves.
Our second day included more hiking. This time we came across a waterfall in addition to more rice patty fields. Again we had a chance to meet with another family and their children. Sapa is a wonderful place to visit. It is a quaint little mountain town full of very hospitable people who work hard to make an honest living. Sapa has a nice downtown area were one can go to various restaurants and cafes or shop in the town center, but it’s the hiking and the people that are the major attractions.