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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cooling off in Sapa

Just got off the night train to Sapa. The journey was not too bad in the hard sleeper with heaps of Chinese and Vietnamese travelers - two to a bunk in one case. The air conditioning worked well enough to make us shivery after a stifling day in Hanoi.

Sapa is rapidly becoming overblown from rapid development as an Asian tourist destination

Hanoi was charming as usual with motorbikes everywhere but very much too hot. Vietnam is notorious for rejecting any slightly off banknotes even when they are good tender. We had hassles at the bank when they turned down a couple of our worn and torn US banknotes, but we repaired them with sellotape and discretely gave them to the hotel for payment.

We had a nightmare when we went to catch the train because just as it was about to leave and we had walked away out on the tracks and down the platform, there was no LC1 train at all just one SP3 tourist train. I ran headlong back to the station and a ticket guard came out to the train to sort it out. What had happened is they had decided to tack LC1 onto the front of SP3 and give the carriages different numbers.

Sapa overlooks a stunning valley

We were besieged by bus touts at the Lao Cai station when we emerged but managed to talk them down to a tolerable compromise by being resistant 75,000 each instead of 100,000 although the price should be 60,000. Then the driver got stopped by the cops half way to Sapa. Finally we got besieged by hotel touts and went with one who turned out to really help run a hotel and gave us a nice deal for 180,000 or US $8.50 a night with hot showers and wifi.

Hmong women trying to sell small crafts or walking tours

We were escorted all the way there by Hmong women wanting to sell us little bags and take us to their village for $15 each a day. They are very mischievous and tried to run off with one of our beloved luggage trolleys, one of which lost its wheel crossing the rail lines in Hanoi.

There are people wearing all manner of tribal dress here in slightly doggrel form with the odd tee-shirt underneath and western sun hats: Hmong, Dzao, Dao and so on.

Two Dzao women

I wandered out of town in the now hot midday sun and took some pictures of the sweeping valley Sapa overlooks and the rice terraces here and there. Tomorrow one or both of us may take a walk to some of the villages with one of the Hmong women who want us to go to theirs for US $15 each a day trip.

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