After a solid six hours of trekking, we stopped for lunch in a village: dry baguettes and salty cheese, with oranges for dessert. Once we finished eating, the women swarmed us, opening their bags to reveal jewelry and purses, tapestries and toys. I thought that a tip was all that was expected, but the women wanted more; they wanted us to buy from them. I shoved bracelet after bracelet into my daypack, cheap gifts for friends in Japan that would turn our wrists green. My guide gave me the earrings out of her own ears. “She wants you to have them,” our main guide told me. I had nothing but a red handkerchief and some pencils to give in return, but she took them and shook my hand.
Women and children selling souvenirs on the roads is a familiar image when you come to Sapa
The women said goodbye, and we were left with our main guide to walk the final paths to our home-stay for the night. The heat beset the afternoon air so that we could taste it, our feet swollen, our shoes filled with mud and cow manure. We stopped once or twice more, the rocks too hot to sit on. Children with dirty faces ran up to us and stared, some of them shyly accepting our invitations to play. Games were made of sticks and grass, the ground our easel. We took photos, the kids crowding around our camera screens to see the end results.
As the sun started to set we found our final destination, a two-storied house with concrete floors and mosquito nets hanging from the ceiling. The large communal table was soon set, dinner an ongoing flow of Vietnamese dishes: noodles and soups, vegetables I could not identify. We were joined by many from the local village. The bottles of rice wine were opened, and the conversation grew louder, peppered with more and more laughter as the evening wore on. Languages flew across the room: English, Vietnamese, French, German. Even the children could feel the energy in the air, chasing a sunburnt Australian around the table while squealing with delight.
Around the fire, we made the friendship
“I want a Canadian girlfriend!” one local man shouted, and the whole room laughed. “You drink good milk, and you are tall and strong.” He had turned his full attention to me now, the only Canadian. “You will come back to Sapa and be my girlfriend, yes?”
We were all drunk by this point, the fabled rice wine taking full effect. I would later collapse into bed happy and full, sleeping better than I had in recent memory. I woke to the sun streaking through the mosquito netting – my surroundings, and my mind, still, at peace. I thought of everything, of the hike and the children and the drinking and the laughter, and realized I’d had one of the best days of my travels thus far.
Warm and shining smile of Sapa’s people
After our breakfast and our goodbyes, we started up the path again. “Wait!” my hopeful suitor cried out from the doorstep. “Will you come back?” The kids were playing in the courtyard, and somewhere in the distance I could hear a cow mooing. There was a sweet smell in the air, a mix of sunshine and thatched roofs and that green, all that green around us.
I called back to him, but I don’t know if he heard what I said. He just smiled and waved, then went back into the little house, ready to greet the next batch of tourists.
So, that’s my unforgettable memories with my dear Sapa. Sounds fantastic, right!
Therefore, if you want to make your own stories with Sapa, then what are you still waiting for but getting your backpack and make Sapa tours right away!
New lives come from new journeys, you know!