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Hiking in Rice Fields

Sa Pa, Vietnam

Sapa has been an intense and amazing 4 day excursion. I am traveling with Vivian, Jocelyn, Carl and Aaron. Getting to Sapa involves an overnight train from Hanoi. There was excitement right from the start when the train started moving while some passengers were off the train. A brief chase resulted in dashed hopes for two unfortunate souls. Those who were safely on board experienced a 9 hour train ride that was clean but sans A/C, definitely a test of our limits given the heat and humidity of summer in Vietnam.

Once we get out of the train, there is a 1 hour ride in a mini-bus to Sapa. Climbing from 600 meters to overal 1600 meters, the views are breathtaking. Steep lush mountains covered in rice paddy terraces at unbelievable angles. Water buffalo, ducks and pigs graze over the remaining open spaces.

The 2 day hike starts in Sapa and includes 2 "Homestays" with local villagers (Black Hmong mountain people). The trails are slightly perilous as the path is steep and often muddy. Several sections involve walking along the rice paddy walls themselves. The terrain is extremely scenic with huge granite peaks jutting up from the river valley. The flanks of the mountain are covered by two distinct bands of foliage: dense bamboo forrests at the upper reaches and ubiquitous rice paddies lower down.

For most of the trip, women selling handicrafts vastly outnumbered the mosquitos whiched proved to be an interesting trade-off. In the villages and at various points along the trail we met many fellow travelers but sadly had limited contact with locals (outside of the sales pitch). Our first night with a host family was the best- the children were very playful and at dinner we learned A LOT about rice wine.

A highlight for the trip was the waterfall on our last day of hiking. The current was strong but the water was cool and refreshing. A lowlight was definitely the food: after Thailand, its hard to understand how basic ingredients don't always come out tasting fantastic.

As we wrapped up our hike today, we decided to hitch a ride on motorbikes back to Sapa. To add to the adventure already provided by high speeds along perilous cliffs, we also had (1) rain that turned the roads to mud (2) road construction that forced us to wait while giant rock sections were being dynamited in front of us.

We are all hopeful that our overnight train ride back to Hanoi will have A/C but more importantly we are looking forward to relaxing on a boat in Hulong Bay.

permalink written by  benjgolf on June 17, 2007 from Sa Pa, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Tour de Asia
tagged VietnamSapaHikingWaterfall

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