Sapa was simply gorgeous. Located in Vietnam's far North, it's a long trip from Hanoi to get there, but worth it. Home to a large, colorful and active population of hill tribes like the Black Hmong and the Red Dzao, the Sapa area is famous for its fascinating cultural diversity. It's also famous for the spectacular rice paddy terraces carved into Sapa's mountainsides over centuries. Rice is farmed here like it was 1000 years ago: with hand tools and water buffalos.
|The rail station was in Lao Cai, right next the Chinese border. From there it was a long, twisty drive through the mountains to our homestay in Ta Van Village, a Hmong tribal enclave 25 km past Sapa.|
|A few Asian Water Buffalo making their way along the road to Ta Van village, guess we will slow down.|
The kids call them grass-fed, reproducing rice tractors
|We stayed at a lovely home stay called Lucky Daisy Buffalo House. We had our own cabin that had an incredible view of the rice paddies. Our bathroom was outside and we walked up the road to the bamboo bar for meals. Dinner was served family style with other hotel guests. It all was fantastic.|
We arrived early off the overnight train and met a few curious onlooker. Our hotel let us hang out in an upstairs area until our room was ready. A couple of us caught a few Zs, the rest read.
Above Scott and Whit check out our awesome cabin, even with an upstairs and lots of cool local decorations.
|chillin on the deck of the Bamboo Bar|
It rained a lot, in fact every day we were there, and for most of the day. It's so beautiful that we didn't care. Our first day we just walked around checking out the area of the village Ta Van where we were staying. It didn't take long for our party of 6 to double in size with these local women and girls walking with us. They could walk for miles just asking a few questions, smiling a lot and ready to be helpful should we need it. And then at the end of the walk, perhaps "you want to buy something?"
|Nothing else is like that green|
|Clouds hover and come in and out of the valley|
|This kid, cruising down the mud hill on a bamboo "sled" he made. Note the foot holds, genius.|
Josephine and Gasper, sweet 20 somethings from Singapore joined us on the trek. We are now friends forever on Facebook.
I mean can you stand it?
No joke on the mud. Our chaco sandals held up well except later in the hike when the trail turned very steep and very muddy. It felt like you and your sandal were no longer connected. Hiking boots were missed. Wish we could've rented Wellies.
Lach taking it in, he and Z were at the front of the pack almost the entire day
Heres our crew of sherpas for the day. They appeared at the beginning and never left us. No joke I would start slipping on the trial and the 12 year old in yellow above would appear instantly, cute and steady as can be in her wellies, and give me her hand.
|Fin and Meg brought up the rear. When we reached the summit here I said to Fin, you know what I'm going to start singing right? And without skipping a beat, "mom this is not 1930's Austria!" I love that kid.|
These panos look better on on my phone- cant get them to wrap around here.
|Z made a friend|
|Ahh sweet Mei, she is 24, has 3 little boys, married at 18, and has never left Sapa. She learned English entirely from working with tourists.|
|Hmong tradition is for women not to cut their hair. Mei's traditional clothing is gorgeous, thick fabric. She never de-layered once while the rest of us bucketed sweat in shorts and T-Shirts.|
Co Captains of Trip of a Lifetime
So Josephine fell off the trail and went down really far. Not to worry her grandma Sherpa got her out with a little help from Scott.
These pics above make my heart melt. Z's little friend who was with her constantly and the grandma sherpa showed Z how to make all kinds of adornments out of firms and other foliage. Simply adorable.
|Taking a break, no drying out however.|
|Some seriously steep & slick trails|
|River cutting through the valley|
|A few water buffalo sharing the path in the village. |
Mei warned us not to touch the bull (the one with pale horns) as we passed.
|Playing in the river|
|lunch & cool off time, food was delicious|
|Part of the final trek was on a road around the village, some paved some dirt. Look closely at this pic. These boys were having a blast pulling a brick at the end of the rope. Kind of like walking a very small, rectangular dog.|
|Stray dogs were plentiful throughout this trip. Almost none had collars, all females looked pregnant or nursing.|
|chickens in rice paddy|
|I wish there was room in my bag to bring this painting home|
|As we waited and contemplated getting out and moving the bricks off the road ourselves, these women appeared and tackled the job while the dudes who had been watching the truck finally clued in and got to work too.|
More rain but Z sure liked her new umbrella
Ninja dudes in new raincoats
Random exercise equipment is everywhere in Asia. Our kids decided a monsoon was a perfect time to get a work out in
I really needed a headband so we bought one from this lovely Hmong woman. She is 20 and the same height as Miss Z.
traveling is tiring.
We had to say goodbye to Sapa. It will be missed but never forgotten.