February 24th to 28th
I arrived back to Sapa by early evening and found a room easily at the Family Guesthouse which I had noticed before and the room was just lovely for $15 CAD a night and this included a view (which I didn’t have much opportunity to see as was rainy and foggy most of the time sadly). The young man at the desk, Tang, was so gracious and his English was well spoken. That always makes such a difference. The first night, I slept well as it was a comfortable mattress (not always guaranteed in Vietnam), however I didn’t know that the AC system was also a heater so it was chilly. Luckily I have my fleece hoody with me with works well in these situations.
My lovely room at the Family Guest House in Sapa
I headed off for breakfast at the Paradise View Restaurant which had been recommended to me by a friend in the US. I would have stayed at the hotel, but it was $50 US a night, a bit too much for my budget. Upon arriving, being cold and rainy outside, I felt the warmth of the restaurant and when I sat down the waitress pulled the heater over to my table and I had the luxury of being warm for the whole time I was there. It was raining and foggy and so I was content to work on my blog for a few hours. I sat by the window which was right beside stairs outside and routinely the Hmong women would be coming up and motioning through the window, that I should look at her wares! I was back in Sapa!
Hmong women selling their wares
Though being back in Sapa was not exactly where I wanted to be, I felt content with how things were working out. I actually needed a more restful time after my very full time in China. One of the things I wanted to do while there was a little shopping as I hadn’t really looked at the shops while I was there the first time. One the surprising things is that every second shop in Sapa is selling North Face jackets, bags, backpacks and the like very cheaply. North Face has it’s factories in Vietnam, but I am pretty doubtful about these goods being actually North Face as they are sold pretty cheaply. It seems like they have it down to an art. Even the labels look perfect. What is curious is that the jackets are apparently gortex, but the North Face fleece gloves are also labeled gortex, so I think it all calls it into question. Nevertheless, I found myself buying a new raincoat (gortex!) for $15 US. Of course these stores were doing good business as many the tourists visiting were ill equipped for the colder weather.
On my last day in Sapa, I decided to try the new cable car up to the top of Mount Fanzipan called the “Fanzipan Legend” I think it has just opened in the last couple of months. It was quite an experience. It is quite the place with a huge temple at the bottom and then another at the top with more in the process of being built. It was a bit of a shock when out cable car started and swiftly we were suspended high over the Sapa Valley. There was a pretty good view the first bit of the trip but before long we entered the clouds and up and up and up we went until near the top where we were above the clouds. People, mostly Vietnamese and other Asian tourists, were delighted to be making this trip. Up until the Fanzipan Legend, it was a 4 day excursion to the top of the mountain and back and one that you would have to be in great shape to do. I didn’t realize that in fact, there were lots more steps to go to the top. There is a park that goes up and up and up and up with various sites along the way. I got to the point where I was two thirds of the way there, and was doing it 10 steps at a time and resting. I wasn’t alone in this. I would hate to think about what it would have been like if I hadn’t had that week in China doing all that climbing! I needed to get back to Sapa for the train that night, so had to turn back, but there actually was no view at the top because of the clouds so it wasn’t a disappointment. In fact it was a relief!
The Sapa Valley on a very dull day
The view looking back at the Fanzipan Legend Station. Those steps go up and up and up!
Into the clouds
It was almost spooky!
Safely back, I waited for the shuttle to take me to Lao Cai for the train that night. Somehow things got mixed up and the shuttle didn’t come so I had a taxi ride to Lao Cai, and I didn’t pay and I don’t know who did. I am hoping it wasn’t he guesthouse…..
Back on the Chapa Express to Hanoi, I was surprised as the first three trips had been pretty cold, but this time, they had the heat on and it was hot! Off came the layers one by one. We arrived at 6am in the morning and I was able to drop off my bags at the Holiday Gold Hotel and then wander around for the morning in Hanoi. I have come to really enjoy Hanoi. It is a high energy place for sure. Now that I am more confident with striding out across roads with oodles of motorbikes, I feel more at home. There is so much visually to take in and it is changing all the time. People walking swiftly down the street with all manner of goods in baskets or on poles, not to mention those on bicycles with their wares and then every other kind of vehicle you can imagine.
The family cycle as opposed to the family car! This is a very normal scene.
One of many Hanoi donut sellers. They were very tempting I must say....
My day there was mostly a shopping day and believe me there are places to spend money! Luckily, my bag is full so I was limited to small stuff which I am grateful for. As it was Saturday, there was a night market so after a delicious Indian dinner at the Little India restaurant (my first non-vietnamese meal since I had gotten to Vietnam) I went to the night market for a bit. It was again full of people enjoying the evening. I will continue on with my journey to Halong Bay in the next entry. Bye for now, Dana