I am in love with my electric mattress pad. I don’t think I want to get up from it… even to go back to Ha Noi.
Greetings and salutations!
The tropical wallflower is currently freezing her ass off in the beautiful (mostly foggy) mountain town of Sa Pa in Northern Vietnam.
I didn’t think that it would be this cold – I didn’t bring enough warm clothes. It hit 8 degrees Celsius in the late afternoon. It may snow tomorrow morning.
I have 2 more days left in this area of Vietnam. The question is: should I put on all the clothes I have, or should I buy me some warm windproof pants and more pants?
I don’t know why I brought my chiffon long skirts. Maybe they can be worn when I move southwards.
I need to learn how to pack better for winter.
This is the lull season in Sa Pa. Tourists usually flock here during the months of May to August, when temperatures are a nice 25 degrees Celsius. There are very few visitors in town, so things are rather quiet.
The town looks like it could be part of Europe.
Unlike in Ha Noi, people here speak very fluent English due to the fact that the main business of this town is tourism. Even the women from the native villages speak very fluwnt English. I was quite taken aback. These women approach tourists on the streets to hawk their handicraft. While I do recognise that there is a need to sell handicraft so they can eat, their hawking borders on harassment.
The local government has taken this into consideration, and signs like these can be found in the middle of town:
The official tourist office in the middle of town is useless – even the maps they give out are useless. Your best bet here is actually your hostel/hotel staff; there is a high chance that the maps found in your hotel is superior than the one given out by the official tourist office.
People seem to be more friendly in this part of the country.
I came into Lao Cai on this morning’s train – I did not sleep much as the train ride was not very smooth. Or maybe it was the excessive amount of coffee I drink in Vietnam. Anyhow, I got very little sleep.
The price for a one-way trip into Sa Pa to Lao Cai was 28,000 dong. Granted, the journey took more than an hour, the seat was too small and I felt like throwing up during the ride, but I felt the experience was rather interesting.
A sidenote: the same journey by luxury bus takes an hour (I think) and costs about 60,000 dong.
Many people got on. They all seemed to know each other and were having loud animated conversations in Vietnamese/local dialect in the bus. At one stop, a woman from the Hmong tribe got on. She had 2 big bags of stuff that she could not haul by herself. The bus conductor got off to haul the stuff to the back of the minibus.
A person in the same job in Ha Noi may not have bothered, but this guy didn’t even hestitate to help.
The conductor spoke no English; I have knowledge of the following phrases in Vietnamese – the numbers 1 to 10, ‘how much?’, ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’.
My Vietnamese is nearly non-existent but somehow I got by with smiles.
The minibus runs every hour from Lao Cai, starting from 6am. The last bus is at 7pm, I think.
When I got into Sa Pa, I was initially quite disappointed because of the touts. I hate touts and I avoid them like the plague. I walked around town, but I was not too impressed.
Later on, I realised that the key is to go on guided tours.
I am scheduled to go for a guided hike (10km) tomorow to the surrounding villages for US$12. Th tour will start at 9.30am and end by 4pm. Good value.
Otherwise, you may go on spontanous tours on motorbike. The motorbikes can be found in the middle of town.
Taxi and motortaxi prices are fixed (there are signs with the prices), so I went on a motorbike trip to Tham Son for 150,000 dong. It was so beautiful up there and I felt this money was quite well spent.
Besides, I love motorbike rides.