Sapa - Hilltribes
Hello everyone! It has been a few days since my last entry. Probably because I've been traveling around without a real destination or goal.

After arriving in Hoi An, where I got myself a real nice custom made jacket, I visited my friends brother in Dong Hoi, a little city by the central coast in Vietnam. Nothing special, just another city. I got free accommodation, and spend two rainy days there, doing most likely nothing. After two days I took a soft sleeper train to Hanoi, which took me 10 hours.
The funny thing is, that most northbound trains arrive in Hanoi around 4am in the morning. I got really lazy and didn't bother to lookup a hostel before arriving, so I got stuck in the middle of the night in Hanoi. Luckily I met some French people to hang out with untill sunrise, when all the hotels open again :) Emily got to Hanoi a day before me, so I waited for her to stand up in the lobby of the biggest backpacker hotel in Hanoi (Hanoi Backpackers Hostel). There I met Ismael, a guy from Spain who we're traveling with now.
Both of us are were going to Sapa, and then to Laos.

Right now I am in Sapa and the third day is comming to its end. Sapa is a quite touristy city located in the north east highlands of Vietnam. It lies 1600 metres above sea level, and so it's quite chilly here. I would have never thought about being cold in Vietnam before, but now I know better.
Sapa is known for the local people (Hilltribes) the mountains around it as well as endless rice teracces covering every mountains foot. First hearing about Sapa, I was quite sceptical about visiting it. Would it be too touristy? would the hilltribe people only dress how they do for the tourists? You know..
But after the first two days I can say that I am totall happy about comming here. It's beautiful. Nothing to add.

Comming from Ha Noi we decided to take the train up to Lao Cai, which is about 1000? km in the north west. As always, I buy the tickets when I want to go, and so this time I got really unlucky with the reservations. Hard seats were the only thing left we could get for the next three days.
Since it was a night train, we had a really tough night to go to Lao Cai, and so the next day was nothing but a blurr to me. I basicially spend it walking around the city like a zombie and then sleeping 12 hours untill the next morning. I am not made of sugar, but a 10 hour night hard seat ticket isn't what I call comfortable :D

Sapa is about 25k south of Lao Cai, and so we had to take a mini bus for 40.000 dong (1,5 usd) which took us about 1 hour. Already on the way I started to realize I did the right thing. The Rice teracces with the mountain peaks raging up in the background are nothing but beautiful.

Now about the town and the people... There are about four women "following" you as soon as you get out of the bus. They will just follow you through the whole town, everywhere you go. There will be the usual conversation about where you're from, what you do, if you're married or not, and bla bla. Then they want to sell you something. Funny is, that they tell you something like "I follow you now, and later you buy somethign from me?"
- Why would I want them to follow me? But it seems like following people is something that they think of as a service. If they only had something to sell that I could actually need... Little flutes, purses, wallhangings or hats are not what I can make use of. Anyway..
After being followed by a certain group of women and their children, we somehow managed to get into a real conversation with them, which was really interesting.
Then they offered us to show us around Sapa, walking to their Village and then cooking lunch for us. Lonely Planets tip was to make use of those services as it's one of the best ways to get to know the tribe peoples way of living.

So we made a deal with Ze, and ZeZe (spelling?) to bring us to their village. Being a group of five (Emilie, Ismael, two Italian friends of Ismael and me) we negotiated a price of 40 dollar for all of us.
The next morning we met them infront of the hotel and started to hike.
Ze and her sister in law Zeze have plenty of sisters, brothers and childs. two of her 10 year old sisters and two of their childs would follow us along. Also, Ze was carrying her Baby on her back, all the way.
It's pretty impressive if I think about my brothers doing a 25km hike, doing about 500 meters altitute without ANY whining or sign of exhaustion :D I guess they're much more used to walking :)
The kids following us turned out to be very nice since they were so cute!

The next following five hours we hiked through the jungle, across mountain tops through little villages of the minority people. Fantastic and spectacular views all along the way, made us very slow becuase we took many pictures!
Then finally after five hours we arrived in their village, which was pretty big for the ones we've seen before. 700 people, a "kiosk" and a school. ZeZes family had their house up in the mountains, one of the last ones of the village. They live together with their four children, two sisters and husband in a approx 30m² house made of wood. Not insolated, and 10 cm space between the walls and the ground. Asphalt floor. Very different. I am happy to have done this, because they told us many stories and explained some of their traditions to us on the way.

One of the best 8 dollars I spend during this trip.

Again. Firefox 8.x does not show the comments beneath the pictures, so please use Internet Explorer for this post. I will put comments beneath the pictures again, it's worth to read!

Tomorrow I am going to hike on Vietnams highest mountain "Fansipan". With t 3,142 metres it's about 1500 meters above Sapa. We booked a tour and will probably hike up there with two other people (5 in total). It's a solid two day hike, with a night about 300 meters below the top.

Will share stories and pictures after I come back!

Yours Luke
4 Comments
Entry by rachel from california,usa
On 06.12.2011 at 03:31
hey luke!! everytime i look at your blog it makes me so jealous. and these pictures are SO GOOD!! seriously they belong in National Geographic or something!! all that hiking... my knees hurt just thinking of it !! lol. Life is good in cali, its finals week so im procrastinating sutdying right now haha. take care!!
Entry by tata from pl
On 05.12.2011 at 18:20
look this video about traffic in Vietnam http://vimeo.com/32958521. How they drive!?
Entry by TATA from pl
On 30.11.2011 at 22:32
piekne zdjecia, krajobrazy, las, pola, ludzie i te historie, dzieki
Entry by Mama from home
On 27.11.2011 at 16:56
Lieber Lukas,
hier ist gerade 1. Advent - wir saßen beim Adventskaffee mit von Omama gebackenen Plätzchen und haben deinen Bericht gelesen und alle neuen Fotos angeschaut. :D Insofern warst du irgendwie mit dabei!
Sehr beeindruckende Bilder und Impressionen! Das Portrait von Ze ist sehr schön - Hoffentlich ist sie zumindest halb so zufrieden mit ihrem Leben wie es auf dem Bild den Anschein hat ....
Bis bald,
Tido,Tobi, Basti, Omama, Helmut und Mama