Monday, April 27, 2009

Sapa - North Vietnam

Sapa is the usual destination in Vietnam to see the different hill tribes that maintained their traditional way of life up in the mountains of Vietnam. Beautiful clothing, basic homes, thousand of rice patties, surrounded by mountains ... most defiantly worth a trip.

I splurged a bit and did the four night three day tour. The overnight train I took from Hanoi was the most classy I have ever been in - nice matress, little lights, super clean (even the bathroom was decent) and a bottle of water. It continued to get better the next morning when I had my own room, king size bed, HBO, my own bathroom AND A BATHTUB - the first real bathtub since I left 5 months ago ... you can imagine how excited I was : )

I was in a group with 6 others (mostly Aussies - including a really nice couple I had already met in Laos a few weeks earlier) and our personal guide Zi (a 20 year old girl from one of the local tribes) took us to the first village, many rice farmers, fast irrigation systems, lots of sowing and coloring of their traditional dresses and a dance performance ... just don't pinkie swear with multiple young girls, promising to buy something later. They will hold you to it and their prices are not as friendly as their innocent, little faces would suggest - great souvenirs though!

The second day was a hike down to another two villages, followed by a home stay in a large barn ... the family made us feel at home by sharing their home made rice wine with us :) A few more hours of hiking the next day, enjoying the beautiful countryside, before I headed back to Hanoi that night.

Back in Hanoi at 4 am I got to see the city wake up ... which is early. By 5am many Vietnamese are out for their morning exercise - one of their favorites is Badminton, played on all public squares and side walks around the lake. Thai Chi, walking, stretching and ball room dancing also seem to be very popular.

After a quick visit to Uncel Ho (he was not ready to see me ;) apparently visiting hours are very strict... no, they will not make an exception even if you tell them it is your last day in Hanoi. So if you want to see the dead body of the communist hero of this country you got to be on time. Considering that he died in 1969 its pretty impressive that we still get to hang out with him ...

The Palace and Uncle Hos house were nothing too spectacular and a walk to the West lake in the north of city more exhausting than exiting. Catching a local bus back is a bit more of an adventure .... keeping an eye on the map helps, trying another two buses and asking around will get to close enough, before you giving up and just walking the last 30 minutes :)

The Afternoon was the craziest yet during my travel ... it involved Black Jack, $40,000 cash, $37,000 in credit for me, a rich Singapore women, my Robin Hood complex, and a cast of 5 Vietnamese that did an excellent job taking $100 from me ... pretty expensive lesson of Black Jack if you ask me ....but very lucky afterall. This one could have hurt ... that night I took another night train to Hue.

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