Trekking in Sapa
The trek adventure started with us all boarding the overnight bus to Sapa. However before boarding the bus at the bus station right around the corner from my backpackers, there was some confusion. The guy taking our bus passes was in a hurry and not really paying attention to what he was doing. So much so that a few passangers had papers taken from them that they would later need once we had arrived in Sapa. No one realized this though until it was to late.
James, Dee, Candice and myself in the overnight sleeper bus.
Echo (up top), Phan in the bottom left, and Momo and Selina on the bottom right.
This bus was really cool for us all to experience for the first time together. I felt super giddy about it, the lights, the reclined seats with blankets and a shoe off policy. We were all pretty excited about it.
We arrived early in Sapa, 4am but we stayed on the bus tell 6am sleeping until our guides came to get us. At least that's what we were told was supposed to happen.
The guides didn't come it was our shuttle buses and taxi's. Those papers that were taken away from some at the bus station the night before were needed! Several ladies were standing outside with me and had no paper work to show for the full Sapa tour they had booked. I helped them as much as i could and tried to find someone who could speak English. We had our paper work but our ride was late. Eventually it all worked out and those ladies joined our group.
We were all picked up and driven to a hotel where we had breakfast (included in our tour package). We were offered to leave our big bags in the hotel until we were finished trekking the next day. Warm showers before we set off on the trek were also offered. It was colder in Sapa since it is considered winter here right now, especially in the north.
I didn't bring many warm clothes so I decided to pack my entire bag with me on the trek. If I needed to layer clothes on, now I could. I also heard Sue, our trekking guide say that we were going to the homestay and then trekking. Since she speaks broke English I didn't hear her correctly. I also wasn't the only one, a few others carried their big packs as well. So the first day was an 11k trek of lots of up and down climbing through rice paddies. I carried an extra 25lbs on me including drinking water. The 11k trek was just to get to our homestay and that was the trek for the day. Lunch was of course served to us, we ate in a little village along the way.
Some of our group and a mob of Sherpa women with their baskets. The Sherpas were overly helpful and always trying to hold our hands down the hills and take on our packs. They also expected tips for this at the end so I tried to be as independent as I could. I will admit though, I didn't realize they were Sherpas for awhile. Dee made a comment to me after one of them grabed my little daypack and carried it. She said, "how much is that Sherpa charging you for carrying your bag?" It struck me hard and I instantly went for my bag, using the excuse that I needed my water from it.
Worked like a charm.
We hit some muddy areas along the trails that were a bit slippery. Here, for example.
Gorgeous views surrounded us!
The Chinese girls and the Sherpas making their way down hill. The girls didn't come to Vietnam to Trek. They found out I was going and wanted to join me. While we had a blast together I also felt bad for them because they weren't fully equipped for those 2 days. For example one of them was wearing the equivalent to Ked shoes.
This is our guide Sue teaching Candice a little about how they make hemp clothing and naturally die the fibers.
James, Candice and I.
Sue trekking along just before we entered a village for lunch. By the way, lunch was a lot of rice, a bowl of fried tofu and a plate of steamed veggies. We were hungry but when the man with missing teeth wearing a military jacket served our dishes to us with a long thick beard hair in... We kinda lost our appetites!
More incredible views. This place really was worth going to despite the cold. As we treked on it became much warmer and we all found ourselves discarding clothes.
Candice, Momo, Selina, Echo, Phan, me.
Once we reached our homestay we were all exhausted. Non of us had really got a complete night of rest on the bus and we all could have used more food on top of that trek. So we each took a shower and got into comfy clothes at 4pm when we arrived at the homestay. We basically lounged around until dinner and then went to bed.
A portion of our homestay. 3 beds pushed together that James, Dee, Candice and I shared. The dinning room is where you see the Chinese girls sitting. We brought the big tables in for dinner and breakfast because it was to cold to eat outside.
One of the ladies cooking us dinner.
We ate family style, dishing from the large plates in the middle into the lil bowls.
There were only 2 males in our large homestay group. This was when we started to notice that a lot of solo travelers in Vietnam are women. The guys who travel are often with another guy and often traviling and drinking it up in the hostels. Not true for everyone but I noticed this to be true in a lot of cases.
The next day we got started out just after our delicious banana pancake breakfast at 9am. Our group of 8 left first and I'm so glad we did! It has rained the night before so we had more constant slippery trails to deal with. I felt bad for the last group, by then the trail would be pretty sloppy and just a mess to walk through!
Bamboo forest trekking.
Echo was using the selfie mode on her phone to check out her hair so I decided to photo bomb her.
Sue and her baby which she carried on her back the first day from lunch to the homestay. Then again the next day for the full 5k! Not to mention she wore plastic sandels that were half a size to small and she never missed a step! These ladies are like mountain goats!
The trek was finished and we were back in Sapa town to have lunch in the hotel (WAY better lunch than the first day) and then free time to wonder around before the bus picked us up at 4pm.
The hotel staff drove us to the bus station right at 4. James and Dee stayed outside and the girls and I all went inside. Our tickets were collected and we discovered another error made the other night at the bus station in Hanoi. The Chinese girls ticket said they weren't leaving tell the 10pm bus. The Vietnamese man at the bus counter was being really rude to them, yelling at them to get out. Phan started to get really upset and assumed it was because they were Chinese.
I stepped in and started handling the situation. I wasn't about to let this little man with a big temper push them around. I argued back to him, at first nicely so that he'd work with me but he just didn't care. So as he continued to yell at them to leave I'd yell back at him, no they are with me! They aren't leaving! Soon I had every traveler in that bus station on our side. A guy gave me his phone to use when I was trying to call Pearl (the owner of the Hanoi backpackers). I thought she could speak to the man and tell him there was a mistake. I could t reach her by phone. So then I connected to wifi and started FB messaging her.
She somehow knew a number to call and a man associated with our tour came to me with his phone and pearl on the other end. She said she'd call the bus station and get it worked out. I had to load onto the bus and leave the girls, trusting that they would hopefully be getting on after me. I found my seat and watched them out the window as the conversation seemed to continue. Sure enough though, they loaded on! There wee only 2 seats left so 2 had to sleep on the floor which no one was happy about due to the safety issues. This bus like many other Asian buses is known for getting in accidents so it's just better to be in a seat. Regardless, the girls made the bus back with me!
When we arrived back in Hanoi at the bus station, sweet Pearl was unexpectedly there to greet us. We had all plan to walk the 10mimutes back to the backpackers but she hired a taxi on her own dime for us. She felt bad for the situation and wanted to make it up to us somehow.
I tell you, Pearl is just a complete sweetheart! She truely MADE my time in Hanoi amazing! I'd go back to that city just to see her again. We are FB friends so I will definitely be keeping in touch with her that way.