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Sapa trekking wrote by Kevlin

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Sapa – Vietnam 27 feb – Thursday

Sa Pa Trekking with the H’Mong Overnight train was quite decadent compared to our last trip to Hoi An. We had fresh bedding, teak wooded walls, bottles of complimentary water and even a basket of plastic flowers! Journey took longer than we thought, set off at 9.10pm and arriving at Hanoi 06.30am. Our mini-bus Drive lasted an hour and wound up, up and further up into the mountains.

The sky was overcast and before long we were encased in swirls of mist, bringing visibility down to around 30 foot. Our trek was not going to give us the spectacular views we had anticipated, but we were going to give it our best shot. After down-sizing on luggage, dumping all but immediate necessities at the Hotel Grand View in Sa Pa, where we will stay tomorrow night. We walk off with our small group, collecting local H’Mong women along the route. We were glad to have them with us later in the day as the trails were sometimes tricky and wet.

The scenery, when the mist and cloud occasionally lift, is very dramatic. Here, the Village people are eking a living from rice imageimage
imagegrowing, mainly on barren rocky hillsides, so every piece of cultivatable land is turned over to terracing. Despite this, we are told that due to the local climate, no more than one rice crop per year can be produced.

In south Vietnam they can produce three, most of which is exported worldwide. We discovered also that the current growing population in the hill tribes area is higher than their rice output, and therefore there will be imminent legislation regarding family size, possibly a maximum of two or three children per couple to be enforced in the near future. As families here rely on having a large, healthy family to take on the burden of food production and family care, this will undoubtedly cause hardships.

We picked up so many local people it felt at times like an Everest attempt with accompanying Sherpa’s. Wearing colourful local attire, these ladies of both theHMong tribe and the nearby Red Dao tribe walk with us and help if required on difficult areas, such as water courses or crossing boggy rice paddy s. They are not part of our official party but at the end of their stint, they do expect imageimage
imageyou to buy something from them, goods made locally, in the form of brightly woven scarves, small handbags, bangles and cushion covers.

Lunch was in a community compound at Lao Chai village, this was a sight to behold. 5 French 3 English and 1 Canadian, surrounded by a milling crowd of traditionally dressed Villagers plying there trade and as we were seated at the end of the Hall we were a captive audience, the small children were particularly enthusiastic, and despite their tender years were fully aware of their commercial opportunities and melted our ironclad wallets with their soulful faces and mournful pleas to buy. We were several thousand Dong lighter on arrival at our Homestays.

Without our guide and followers, we would never have found it, and due to the encompassing mist, we may never get out! On arrival we met a further couple, from Northern America, so now we are a party of eleven and it’s getting cosier by the minute. Our bedroom is the entire communal floor upstairs, cots on wooden floor, side by side, even more intimate than last night’s train carriage, going to be a whole lot of fun later.

Currently imageimage
imagethe younger of our party are playing cards, whilst us two oldies are having a beer, admiring the misty horizon and eagerly awaiting our dinner at 6pm, being cooked behind us on the fire in the kitchen of our homestead. Could be a very early night as the temperature is dropping fast

.Dinner was traditional, with a twist, bowls of French Fries as an Entree, which was quite bizarre, cooked in a wok over a central open fire. Main courses all hot and tasty, and finally succumb to using chop sticks as no other viable alternative. After dinner the young French guys played a form of volley ball with a shuttle cock type device whilst the rest of us tried to stay warm in the thickening gloom. Retreated the the warm kitchen and sat around the fire swapping stories with the fellow guests and our hosts, but very soon the smokey fire became too much for us, so excuses, made we retreated to our Billet and mosquito net. An early but not uninteresting night.

Tip of the day: If you are travelling in third world locations, take a torch!




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