Any party has its own end, any joyful moment has its own stop, and so did our wonderful Sapa tours.
I have always wondered what the best way to really enjoy my youth is, and finally, I came up with making tours around the mysterious Southeast Asia with some friends.
It couldn’t be that impressive and surprising to me if we know that we’ll catch Sapa trekking tours before. But life is full of surprise, and I have to admit that we didn’t know a thing about Sapa until we made to it.
Sapa beauty is always on my mind
Now, everything that will appear in my head when someone mentions about Sapa are breath-taking landscapes made by green paddy and mighty mountains, table piled with food, bottles full of rice wine, and the shining smile of Sapa people.
Well, I was on one of those three-day tours from Hanoi that guaranteed a true H’mong experience. It was my first time to Southeast Asia, and I had arrived from Japan on holiday for a few weeks. The trip was booked on a whim, a necessary break from the months teaching in classrooms, a chance for my skin to finally see the sun again. The taxi from the airport hurtled down the highway – I had never seen such chaos. Motorbikes were laden with whole families, their pigs strapped to the sides; bandana-covered faces stared at me through slats in trucks, men off to try to make a few dollars for a day’s work.
The scenery from the train to Sapa is also very magnificent
In the stifling August heat of Hanoi I found my hostel. Within hours I had made the kinds of friends we make when we’re drenched with sweat and the beer is flowing freely. “Go to Sapa,” a young Irish girl in a pink sombrero told me. “It’s beautiful there.”
A few days later, I was on the train north, the cabins filled with the other members of my tour group. We were comically typical, a ragtag bunch of backpackers seeking what we thought we could not find in Hanoi: nature, tranquility, truth. I was the cleanest of them all, the freshest to the country; the others wore their tans and their travel bracelets like trophies, odes to their months spent on the road.
We were herded off the train, made to sit in a travel agency, given hot cups of instant coffee. We stirred our Nestle in the boiling water, the coffee stale and flat; ironic, given the country. The day was humid and the clouds hung low, but we were lucky to escape the rain as we started out into the nearby hills. It finally dawned on me why there was such a large group of Hmong women waiting outside the agency for us: they were our guides, there to navigate our steps and to hold our hands.
In a village that we had homestay experience
The hike was tough, but not impossible, even though the trails were thick with mud and the previous day’s rain had made the rocks slick and dangerous. My guide, half my size and wearing plastic sandals, gripped my hand with authority as I stumbled over paths she must have walked a thousand times. I trusted her, though she did not speak to me once. Those months in a classroom failed me now, and even my hand gestures and pathetic attempts at Vietnamese garnered only smiles.
And that’s just the beginning part of our journey which is full of discovery and experience in Sapa. To read the other part of my story, let’s move on to my NEXT article! Well, I bet you will definitely want to book tours to Sapa right after finishing reading that.