Friday, March 13, 2015

My first trip to Sapa (2nd part)

I was born in Sài Gòn, so I simply thought Sapa could be, by some how, similar to Đà Lạt - a famous highland town in South of Vietnam. Đà Lạt renowned for its flowers, water falls, hills with pine trees, foggy lakes. It was a favourite romantic honeymoon place for many people in South for many years but not now. Anyway, I was totally wrong! Sapa was much more impressive. Sapa probably didn't have those "romantic factors" like Đà Lạt but, instead, I found Sapa majestic, haughty Kingdom in cloud.

                     Sapa in my eyes was much more majestic, haughty...Kingdom 

During my trekking to Cát Cát village, I was a bit upset with the scenery along the way to Cát Cát tribe, around the village - tourist centre. It seemed the nature, surrounding the village, has been destroyed or poorly maintained by the human, But then I realised Sapa has severe cold winter months, with snowfalls, minus temperature. That could explain why not everywhere in green.

Back to the hotel at noon, we got a room with the balcony, with a great view to the cloudy valley. I was partly tired after the overnight train ride, partly from the long trek to Cát Cát in the morning...but mostly from my bad cold after Yên Tử mountain. I couldn't take a nap, while my friend deeply enjoyed napping, I had to wake him up for the motorbike ride in the afternoon at 14:30.

                   The road leading to Golden Stream, Silver Waterfall...The Fansipan on the left

Following the instructions from the Hotel Desk Tour, we went to "Golden Stream, Silver Water Fall". The idea to take a nice photo of the beautiful waterfall, not like the one at Cát Cát village excited me a lot! We arrived after a quite long ride on motorbike, got tickets, 45,000 đồng/ each. We started to walk. We walked, walked and walked...The road seemed endless, deserted. I started to feel the heavies of the camera bag on my shoulder.

Finally I met some western tourists on their way back, looking at their red and pale faces, I was doubting as no any familiar sounds of the water fall. It was absolutely quiet. I quickly changed my mind when seeing the Golden Stream. It was a rare sunny day in Sapa, I couldn't waste my time nowhere in this deserted forest.

                At the deadly Golden Stream with no water, still no sounds, no sign of Silver Waterfall...

I gave up walking to the Silver Waterfall, despite my friend's insistence to continue, I felt I could waste my time, being stuck in here. Finally I convinced my friend to come back without seeing the waterfall. I prefer to see more the terraced rice fields, the wonderful panorama of mountain chain...

On the way back to Sapa from Golden Stream I was fascinated by this scenery - the white cherry blossoms (it was actually pear trees!), the terraced rice fields in the background of the mountains range Hoàng Liên Sơn...with the highest peak Fanxipan.

                  It was actually pear tree blossoms...some people confused with white cherry. 

I've been to Bali few years ago, a friend took me to the terraced fields, somewhere near to the volcano, at that time I was impressed but when seeing these paddy fields in Sapa, carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the mountains...I was speechless. Later I learnt the terraced field in Sapa was ranked No 9 in top 10 of the most beautiful rice terraces on SpotCoolStuff. The sun started going down, the fog got thicker, I felt the cold breeze and almost freezing, sitting behind the driver.

                       I could imagine how wonderful these paddy fields look like in the harvest time... 

                       they would become a golden carpet with different degrees of yellow colours...

                  It would be an exciting experience to spend sometime in these houses...

                        The last sunshine over another fields near to Ta Van tribe.                

                      Standing uphill, I was admiring the vast Mường Hoa valley...

The driver took me down to Tã Văn village, we arrived to the rice field, not far from the village and next another no-water river, the scenery was different, not flashy as we saw from far, then I realised the minority people in Sapa living in poverty, very poor even to our rural living standards.
That's why we saw them walking around the downtown of Sapa, speaking in different languages, trying to guide some foreigners, selling those items made of their beautiful traditional fabric (thổ cẩm) in order to survive their hard life in the remote rural areas.

                         The last photo taken at Tã Văn village...before the sunset 

                           And the last photo before Sapa sank into the evening fog  

                     Next morning the fog was that thick, nothing was visible in the distance of few meters. 

Our last morning in Sapa, we decided to skip the tour when we were informed about the visit to Tã Văn. We have been there yesterday afternoon, so better explore the downtown and I also wanted to do some shopping.

Last night I got a message from one of my friends, asking me to buy "The North Face" or "Columbia" gears as it was very cheap in Sapa and not...faked ones! Next morning, at the shop, they told me these sport wear produced in Sài Gòn (!). Anyway I bought a pair of Columbia trousers at only 10 USD and some for my friend.

                  The church built in 1930, right in the heart of Sapa. It was a foggy noon. 

               It would be very nice, if Sapa could have cherry blossoms around the town...

Around 13:00 pm, the sunlight suddenly came out, I took a chance to get some quick photos of cherry blossoms by the lake. I was wondering if cherry blossoms could be everywhere in town, along the roads, around the villages, the hills, the mountains...Sapa should be much more splendid in this period of year.

                       These minority people always turn away or hide their face when the camera on them...

                        Sapa reminds me of Đà Lạt, a highland town with many lakes in South 

                 The downtown Sapa with many shops, restaurants, massage parlours...   

We spent some time in this commercial area, walking along the road, having a good lunch, enjoying 60' foot massage by young minority - Tày. They look pretty in their 20s, speak perfect Vietnamese but keep speaking in their mother tongue between them...

                    Happy, smiling faces as I bought some souvenirs from them...

                   The newly built market couldn't replace the pavement for these special vendors
                   they were everywhere and made Sapa more colourful, more charming, more unique...

                    Wondering that was the way she avoided my camera or she was in the middle of her nap. 

Back to hotel at 16:00. Sadly to say goodbye to Sapa. One and ½ day was not enough for me to explore this small town and its spectacular neighbourhood. But I was happy that I make it to Sapa after many years of hesitation.

The depart time was 17:00. We still didn't have the bus tickets and I kept checking with the hotel as they were coordinating with the travel agent in Hà Nội. They said ok, we will take you to the bus. Until we arrived at the bus station, the bus driver assistant called again the tour agent in Hà Nội...and finally they let us get into the bus. For the first time we took the bus-bed (here they call "sleeping bus"!). We took the shoes off, put them in a plastic bad...and went to our seats.

Inside the bus very clean, the toilet also spotlessly clean but so so tiny. However I didn't feel good laying down on my seat, I tried to push up the back, tried to get some sleep, but it was hard! The road from Sapa to Lào Cai was quite dangerous pass, I felt a bit like seasick when arrived to Hà Nội at 23:00. My first trip to Sapa completed, quite in rush but remained memorable for long!  

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