The hotel... this hotel deserves a shout out. Let me show it to you.
I totally reccomend booking here if you go. I didn't have any of the spa treatments but several people did and they said they were fab. It is a really nice place!
When we arrived they handed us hot towels and some warm tea of goodness. I could have drank many more cups of that tea whatever it was. We were handed our keys and we then got to rest for about 45 minutes. Oh it was tempting to just stay in the hotel room but food had to be eaten and a trail had to be hiked. So we got ourselves together and headed out to the van.
We went off to get breakfast which was actually in another hotel. We wondered why we just didn't eat in our own hotel... but then it dawned on us! It was def the view. I say this with utter sarcasm, because on a clear day the view would have been something magical. However, the fog clouded the windows and there was notthing to be seen!
I'll be honest, this was the least impressive meal for me. So I do think that it was the view that makes the meal and without the view the meal was basically pretty mediocre of a breakfast. Hey, maybe I should have had the soup instead of the omelette! I learned my lesson- when in vietnam stick to the noodles! Seriously do not venture too far from the noodles.
Afterwards we headed outside to begin the hike (or at least find our van to be driven to where we were hiking?I really can't remember the details. However, there were two ladies standing outside, local women in their very local clothing that represents the village that they are from. Little did I know that these two women who were selling their goods were actually going to follow us on the hike all the way back to their village. Follow is a word that I use lightly, because while it was a very strategic plan (follow tourists in hopes to sell things), they were actually life saving. They knew how to trek these hills full of mud and prevent us from falling. At the end.. you def wanted to buy lots of things to just say thank you for not letting me die today. As you walked along they would say to you, "are you ok?" -which we began to ask each other as well throughout the trip :)
I learned various things about Sa Pa during the tour, particularly that there are not that many people living there. I think the population was said to be around 10,000 or so. However, if you think about the fact that probably 200,000 people actually visit Sa Pa per year- that is a crazy number.. 20 x more visitors than people who actually live there. The small population is mostly ethinc people who live int he villages and they cultivate and grow rice in the terraces. We had an additional guide that is local to Sa Pa. She had really great English, and we all thought that she must have traveled somewhere to learn. However, she never had left the village and learned from tourists. She shared with us that people of the village get married VERY young and begin to have children. As someone who has been traveling a lot as of late it is hard for me to imagine never leaving a village!
(To be continued in "Two Scares in Sa Pa")
Lunch was phenominal. We ended up at someones house- not sure if it was a place that anyone could just go for food, as it seems like it was really someone's house. I am also not really not too sure where this was. It was one of my favouirte meals of the trip. It was beyond homemade, we were sat outside in the open air, trying new foods, eating like kings and queens and ultimately taking shots of local liquor with local people. There was a very cute little boy who was able to play a little soccer/football with. #Adorable
Two Scares in Sa Pa
I don't know what its like to have a fear of heights in the same way, but I know what its like to have a panic attack. I know what its like to feel irrational, rational, anxious fear. I know what its like to do this in front of other people, which makes the experience even worse, because naturally you are worried about perception and yet there is nothing you can do about it. All in all the perception of the other people is not judgement, just concern. We wanted to make sure she was ok, that she had her space, but that she knew we wanted her to be ok. Keep this is mind when something similar happens, try to reduce the concern about the perception of others because most of the time, people are good people and just want you to be ok. Sometimes we try to push ourselves and the push is too far out of the comfort zone. I am all about trying to grow and develop as a person, but I also think that if we stretch too far like an old rubber band we will just snap. So its important to understand ourselves and recognise our limits. So, I guess all I am trying to say is I admire Angela in her decision to try and to walk away.
The second scare took place when we got to the little village where we were buying our things from the locals. We realised that one of our group members had gone missing! Was she shopping? This became the classic game of Where's Waldo/Wallie/Charrlie (attempt at intercultural communication) to Where's Vita?! I don't really remember exactly what went down but I believe our Guide, Le, and Daniel ended up on a motorbike going up and down looking for her, when we realised that she had never stopped walking, didn't see us all turn off into the little rest area. She had assumed some people were ahead of her and others behind, but that everyone still continued to walk. Luckily a local lady had seen her and was able to tell us where she was and was able to tell Vita to stop walking. At this point she stopped for a cup of tea and awaited the rest of us to catch up. While we had a good laugh at it- if you think about the initial fear she had to have felt when she realised she was on the trail alone (so to speak). It had to have been breifly terrifying even if its that initial scare. It was also terrifying for our guide, I am sure. To realise that one of us was no longer in the wolf pack! Yet, through all of this everyone kept it "together"- I think this goes to show what kind of travelers we all are. Before we assume the worse, lets just find Vita. I know that sometimes when people travel it is really difficult- new spaces, new languages, new cultures. Things will happen on travels and its best to stay calm, identify the propbelm and take steps to rectify it. I am glad that we found Vita, and nothing worse happened. Certainly something worse could have- but it didn't! And hey- for the rest of the trip we had great laugh with Vita, and anyone else who may have ventured off on their own.
Every Picture I Took On The Trail
Now.. it would be a shame to blog this entire post and NOT discuss the happy hour cocktails. They were absolutely terrible! When you go to Sapa and enjoy happy hour I think its important you stick to the wine or whisky. The ability to make a drink was well... its no London and no New York... I would say it was more like a cocktail made in like Iowa (I have never been to Iowa, but I can't imagine they are known for their cosmo or their esspresso martini!)
With the winner Big Dong Tim rich with money we all headed to dinner.... more drinks were drank.. including my first long island iced tea and an all around good evening.
Upon returning to the hotel, many of us sat around the fire chatting and having weird conersations... such as if it were up to you- "who would you pickle" - basically perserve a dead body for as long as you can. So there is a happy note to end on.... who would you pickle if you could?
Another long day to come... but a good rest was had and back to Hanoi we would be going. Thank goodness it wasn't on another rocking train :)