The train arrived at the Lao Cai station about 5:30am where a driver was waiting for us. It was still dark so I closed my eyes as our car maneuvered turn after turn after turn, climbing the mountain.
It was cold enough to wear my down jacket when we arrived into Sapa. We were dropped off at The Unique Hotel for breakfast and to wait for a guide. We could have showered there but the room was quite cool and didn’t have a bench or place to put down your stuff while washing up so we decided to wait till we got into our hotel. When our local guide, Dung arrived, he informed us that our hotel wouldn’t be available until the afternoon.
We left our luggage at the Unique Hotel and started our walk into the valley and Cat Cat Town. Dung told us that Black Meung people live there. He referred to them as the minority people. The local culture is very different from what we have experienced in Vietnam so far.
There seems to be a mongol influence.
We then went walking down and down into the valley...I worried that that meant we would be walking up and up and up later.
We visited the house of a village family. It is so different from what we are used. Many many people live in a small space.
They also store corn and rice, heat and cook with wood, sometimes inside. We were told that the men die young, 40s and 50s. There are real concerns about polluted water from the hotels running into the valley. Also smoke in the house causes breathing problems.
Despite being warned by Dung to duck in the low beamed houses going through the doors, John ran into one. I later noticed that he had a big round scrape in the middle of his forehead.
We were told about many of the “Happy New Year” traditions. Many Asian countries celebrate their New Year in February.
We then visited a local essential oil, soap and tea place. They soaked our feet in scented salts and gave us some happy opium tea. They said it was from the leaves and we wouldn’t get high. If the rest of the day had been a blank, I would know why. It turned out to be ok.
We next went down into the main village with its gorgeous waterfalls, bamboo walkways, water wheels and stage building where we watched the ethnic dancers.
Then we started the rocky hike to more waterfalls and swimming places, then up, up, up. We passed many water buffalo, pigs, geese, chickens and goats. I definitely need to get into better shape. I was winded but the views were worth it.
We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant for a Vietnamese chicken noodle soup and beer. Dung was talking about walking totally to the top, but we noticed that the itinerary included a ride to the top.
We moved into our hotel, the Sapa Diamond to rest up, reorganize our bags and do some laundry (much of which we hung on the railing indent of our large sliding glass doors). Our room was spacious and clean and our view overlooking the valley is gorgeous.
Cora complained about people yelling and running up and down her hallway. A little later, we heard people a little lower in the valley screaming and yelling. It turned out that the Asian Football 2018 Championships were going on and Vietnam (thought to be the underdog) was playing against Qatar (who hadn’t lost yet in the series). Vietnam ended up winning and the whole town went wild.
We walked around the town which was a lot bigger than we thought and went for supper at the Little Vietnam Restaurant. Just after ordering, we heard a racket outside. Everyone ran out to the street to see a huge parade of celebrating fans walking, driving cars and riding motorcycles while waving flags.
Back in the restaurant, the electricity went out all over the city for about 10 minutes. It had also gone out earlier in the afternoon when we were back at the hotel.
This area is known for hiking and mountain climbing. I spent the rest of the evening preparing for our 12 km hike. I’m not sure how I’ll do with that.