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Vietnam, Sapa – Hiking and Rice and Everything Nice [Part III]

27 Oct

Our final day in Sapa was G’s favorite…

Mostly because he had finally met his match – the sweetest and feistiest H’mong girl who helped her mom lead us through the rice paddies fearlessly.

Our final day in Sapa was my least favorite…

Mostly because I had to hold-on for dear-life as we slipped and slide-d our way down the mountain.

(Frustration.)

Yes, indeed, to get down the muddy slopes of Sapa, I had to be fully supported (body, mind and soul) by a sweet old H’mong lady who was about 1/2 my size and had approximately 100 times my strength.

Don’t judge!

Each of us foreigners was equipped with a pint-sized support system…

This coupling happened to be my favorite:

Anyway, once we got the hang of mud-skiing, we were able to relax, look up, and start noticing the magical views around us.

We crossed over bridges…

Hiked through hidden valleys…

Learned how to die clothes using indigo leaves (thanks to Cou, our FANTASTIC tour guide for the day)…

Met some new friends…

Saw some more perfectly sculpted rice fields…

And finished it all off with some pho…

(and a smile)

Guess it wasn’t such a bad ending to our trip after all.

Vietnam, N & P – we love you! Thanks for a perfect vacation.

***

For more information about Sapa, including details about transportation, tour guide and accommodation, see earlier posts about our trip here: PART I and PART II

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Vietnam, Sapa – Hiking and Rice and Everything Nice [Part II]

23 Oct

Hi friends!  

So sorry for the delay, but I’ve finally returned to Seoul after an intense few months of work + business tripping and I’m SO happy to be back to my bloggy world.  I’ve missed this.

Now, let’s go back to Vietnam.

***

Day 2 in Sapa, we awoke to a sunny skies and a lazy breakfast on the porch of Dat’s home.

 The morning was spent running around with Dat’s two cutie kids as we stuffed an obscene amount of banana pancakes into our tired bodies.

Overall, the home-stay was an extremely positive experience- we ate delicious local food, drank mysteriously powerful “Vietnamese happy juice,” slept quasi-comfortably on a mattress protected by mosquito netting,

and most importantly, had a great time with Dat’s family.

When we finally had our fill of pancakes and babysitting, we packed our bags and headed onward and upwards (seriously, the whole day felt like a long and humid incline) to the heights of Sapa’s rice feilds.

The photos really don’t do it justice – so you’ll just have to believe me – the views were utterly breathtaking (and not only because we were utterly out of breath).

We hiked over rice paddies and through small villages – meeting beautiful people and soaking up the sublime scenery along the way.

6 hours later, we (barely) reached the end of the hike, DRENCHED in sweat, exhausted, and ready for a long bath and a good meal (read: strong drink).

Luckily, we had booked a room at the AMAZING Sapa Rooms Boutique Hotel for the night, which provided everything we wanted and more. (Do not forgo their watermelon cocktail – I am STILL dreaming about it.)

(Photo found here)

Dat kindly dropped us off at the hotel, pointed us in the direction of a magical shoe store that took our hiking boots from mudfest 2012…

to brand spanking new (for all of $2!!!!)…

and told us to expect a much easier hike tomorrow.

SPOILER ALERT: Lies, lies, lies!

(Note to self: When planning an itinerary with a tour guide, do not insist on doing the hardest hikes the area has to offer.  Dad – I blame you for this!)

Tune in this week for the grand finale of our Sapa adventures- where things get muddy(-er).

Vietnam, Sapa – Hiking and Rice and Everything Nice [Part I]

9 Aug

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 datsapa@gmail.com.  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.)

Vietnam, Hanoi – The True Concrete Jungle

27 Jul

Okay, so there is no smooth transition from Israel to Vietnam – just a sad little apology from me for not blogging for an entire month between trips.  So yes, I came back from Israel, soaked up a little Seoul, started my life as a Samsung employee, and headed straight back out into this big ol’ world.

And this is how we find ourselves in Hanoi…

Our trip to Vietnam started as a pretty typical question between friends – where should we meet?  So, when our chingoos (= amigos, in Korean) suggested Hanoi instead of coffee, we immediately signed up for the adventure.

The four of us landed in Hanoi not knowing what to expect, but we all instantly fell in love with the chaotic, humid mix of city, jungle, East & West.

Most of Hanoi’s central streets are lined with lush trees…

overflowing with noisy motorbikes…

and crowded with food vendors and hungry customers.

The old, dilapidated (yet rich) French colonial villas bring a surprising pop of color to the bustling avenues, which we explored sweat-ily for hours, finding artistic shops and delicious restaurants along the way.

One of my favorite discoveries was Madame Hien (15 Chan Cam, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi), an exquisite restaurant serving traditional Vietnamese food in a luxurious colonial estate.

We spent a full day in Hanoi, filling our tummies with good Vietnamese food and enjoying the unique energy of the city, but this was only the first leg of our journey.  Our next stop?

Sapa.