I have spent the last week in a place called Sapa, just South of the Chinese border. I flew into Hanoi and the city was absolute mayhem so i took the first train out and found myself the next morning high up in the mountains in Sapa.
I have been here for almost a week and sadly am hopping back on an overnight train tonight to get back to Hanoi (only to catch a bus and leave again- I am trying to avoid staying over night there until my mom arrives in another week).
It was tough leaving Laos since I had a really fun group to travel with but Vietnam has been just as prosperous. At the train station in Sapa I was on a bus with a few french couples (from Quebec, France and Switzerland) and hooked up with them for a few days. The first day we got here we did a trek through the terraced rice fields in the mountains. It is so breath taking. It is the first time I have ever seen landscapes like this in all my travels. There are rice fields carved out of the mountains as far as the eye can see, around every corner. I did manage to drop my camera and break it so even though I am in the most scenic area- I have no pics to prove it (I am using a FUJI disposasble actually right now......going back to basics with REAL FILM!). Luckily I have met 2 wicked photographers who have promised to send me pics down the road.
After a full day of treking and checking into a super dodgy hotel (a whopping $5/night!) I caught my SECOND cold since I have been here. ARGH!!!!!! Might be the weather, since for the first time since I have been here it is not over 30 degrees and there is actual cold mountain air, or it could be the utter filth and cess pool of germs that lurks pretty much everywhere in asia. During one of my strolls through the food market, imagine my surprise to see a selection of repulsive looking raw meet (something I am not a fan of under the most hiegenic of circumstances), some recognizable, some.....not so much. Anyways, as I walked down the stall, I saw whole animals to start off with and then it just got better and better. Pigs heads, chickens claws, innards and gizzards of every shape, size and colour and then the piece de resistance....hmm, is that Sparky I see? Yup, dogs heads. What a delicacy. Literally, chopped at the jugular and pardon the pun, but puppy-dog eyes staring right up at me.......i kid you not! Bon Apetit!
Moving on.....I was deciding whether to do a 3 day trek but since i have been feeling like crap opted for the more comfortable means of travel on the back of a motorcycle, riding through the mountains and it has been wild. The first day was with a guide who took us to an old hill tribe village of the H'Mong people and the Red Dzao, and then to an old church that had been bombed over and over again by the Americans in the Vietnam war. The second day we went without the guide and found our own way around the mountains, but it was pissing it down with rain. It was cold, wet, and uncomfortable but I still had a great time.
Yesterday the sun was out in full effect which made the mountains so much more enjoyable and I went for a few hours of exploring with another Canadian guy out here. We went for a gorgeous drive through the mountains and sat at the base of Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak, in total awe of it all! On the way back we nativagated our way down to a gorgeous little waterfall and had a road side stop cooling down and sun bathing...super day.
So even though I am typically grumpy because I have had a cold for almost 4 days straight, it has been so nice coming to the mountains. Next stop I think is Mai Chau, a small little village outside of hanoi and then FINALLY I will make it to the OCEAN...I am itching to be by the sea!!! It seems almost wrong that I have been away for over amonth and the most exotic ocean I have been to was sitting on Brighton Beach:)