We boarded the
night train to
Sapa, a mountainous region of Northern Vietnam. The train itself was very plushly decorated with dark wood and a fancy lamp. However, it is difficult to get any decent sleep as the train judders and stops randomly throughout the night. Still we arrive at Lao Cai station at 05:00 in the morning and are picked up by our hotel minibus to commence the 40 km journey up the mountains to
Sapa. Generally the journey was fine, apart from the Vietnamese fondness for overtaking on the mountain's outside lane on a blind bend!
As it was very early in the morning, the mountains were still surrounded by mist which led to a spectacular view when we were above the clounds and mist. The views across the terraced mountains were amazing. We also saw some of the Northern hill tribes on their way to work on the terraces of the mountains. They must have to walk for a long time as when we passed them there was nothing to be seen, no houses, huts or any sign of life for miles in either direction.
One goes to Sapa to escape the craziness that is Hanoi city which is what the French did when they were here many years ago which I think is why the main street looks like a ski resort with lots of wooden chalet style buildings. People also come to Sapa to go trekking in the mountains. The Corcoran's don't do trekking so we came to Sapa to do some view looking and resting.
We booked into our hotel which had a massive window which overlooked the mountains and valleys. The view was breathtakng, and of course our point and click camera does not so it justice and show just how wide and big the mountains and valleys are. We spent many a happy our looking out from our window.
In Sapa we hit restaurant overload - by that I mean that we really didn't want to sit in another restaurant, look at another menu and order food that may or may not be nice. What did we do instead? We had takeaway pizza (which came in home made pizza boxes) and watched CSI! Lovely.
THe next day the mist had really descended over the mountains of Sapa. So much so that you could only see about 2 metres in front of you. This put paid to any mountain viewing and also made me slightly nervous about the mountain descent in the minibus later that day.
The descent in the dark went fairly well once we had collected the requisite four additional passengars and many bales of sugar cane, all to be stacked in the already full minibus. One of the highlights of the 1 hour trip was the driver's assistant (van weasel) vomiting in a plastic bag next to Paul's ear. The return train journey is shared with the same French couple we shared with on the way to Sapa. This was not made easy by the French ladies claustraphobia and fear of the dark so the door was left open and the lights left on!
Upon our return to Hanoi we meet up with Tom and Rachelle for beers in Finnegan's Irish Bar (of course) where a shared spirit of being just fed up with menus, hotels and travelling in general is aired. It is definitely time to move on! The teeming noisiness of Hanoi starts to get to us and we plan our crossing into Laos. This is replete with options and at one
point we are going to get a train back to Hue to cross there but further investigation reveals more than one 15hr bus journey so like the eco-travellers we are, we book flights to Luang Prabang in Laos!.