We left Hanoi on a midnight train to Lao Cai* (Okay, so the train actually left at 20:30…but when the two men are singing Journey, of which the midnight trains goes anywhere, and the two girls are singing Gladys Knight, of which the midnight train goes to Georgia, then 20:30 seems a little too specific),
and traveled overnight to find ourselves in the picturesque town of Sapa, located near the Chinese border.
Arriving in Sapa felt like entering a whole new world (“Don’t you dare close your eyes!”), especially after our day of beautiful-chaos in Hanoi. Unlike the capital city, Sapa is quiet, tiny, and surrounded by rich, green mountains, etched with towering rice terraces.
Even more charming still, is Sapa’s beautiful population of ethnic minorities: the H’mong, Dao, Tay, Giay, Muong, Thai, Hoa and Xa Pho.
Locals may follow you around in hopes of selling handmade trinkets, so make sure to tell them kindly if you are not interested.
We stayed in town only long enough to meet our guide, Dat**, and after a quick breakfast, we were off on a hike to Dat’s home, where we would be staying our first night.
(Below, Dat weaving me a crown made of fern & walking besides G the giant)
(To break up the monotony of the incredible views, we had ourselves a contest to see who could look the worst in the photo below. The fern tiaras gave us ladies a chance at victory, but thankfully the bucket hats and dopey smiles brought home the championship for the guys.)
Even though our hike lasted only 4 hours, I still managed to snap over 200 pictures. It really took some willpower not to post them all.
We walked through ride paddies, crossed rivers…
not to mention, fought off rain with fashionable ponchos…
and when we finally reached Dat’s home, we were both exhausted and amazed by all the beauty we encountered…
…Aaaand then we lost power…
More adventures in Sapa – to be continued.
*We took the Sapaly Express train from Hanoi and bought first class tickets to ensure that we would get beds with padded mattresses. The train booking was organized through Dat, our tour guide (see below for additional information). Dat also made sure there was a car waiting for us at Lao Cai, to bring us to Sapa.
**If you are interested in a tailored tour of Sapa on a shoestring, contact Dat at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dat was reliable, responsive, and extremely kind. He lead/organized a beautiful 3-day hiking tour of Sapa, which we all enjoyed tremendously. Staying at his house, Heavenly Homestay, was a fantastic experience and highly recommended. (Although you shouldn’t go expecting the Ritz. Da.)