The journey to SaPa started with the taxi ride to the train station. This was probably our only negative experience with the taxis which we got frequently in all the placed we visited in Vietnam. This particular driver I feel was somewhat disappointed in the shortness of our intended journey and took us a lovely scenic route. I think I would have been OK with this if it wasn’t for the time critical nature of our journey – I didn’t want to miss the train.
The train was massive, with rooms on the side and a long corridor. We had a two berth for Scarlett and Laura, which although booked to enable Laura to sleep soundly without stranger danger proved to be essential for the storage of our luggage on the unused two top berths. (footnote: poor Laura did not sleep soundly due to a bad cold)
After all our research I was expecting a poor nights sleep on the bumpy noisy train. I couldn’t have been more wrong, I enjoyed the first 20 mins looking out the window watching the world go by then I slept soundly until the last 20 mins.
The transfer to Sapa from the train station was awful. Poor Scarlett was very travel sick, not surprising given our drivers wish to try and speed round all the bends – I am sure he was trying to kill us all, mixed with his odour. We found a new use for her Vietnam hat – sick bucket!
The experience didn’t get anymore positive for Scarlett. We were taken straight the offices of Sapa Sisters (https://sapasisters.com) ready for breakfast and onto our trek. By this time we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. Well, when you have travelled all night, and you are only in the place for three days, you say “yes, what the hell, lets trek in the rain”. After a surprisingly nice breakfast, and depositing Laura into a room to try and sleep off her cold, we headed out.
Our guide was from the H’mong tribe and the plan was to trek for two days with overnight being a homestay, with hopefully Laura joining us for tea. Well, what do they say about plans!
It all started as an exciting adventure, we were all wet through almost straight away and were still in great spirits, with Xander particularly excited about his Bear Grylls style trekking. Point to note – my umbrella was useless. Walking down the side of the rice paddy fields, which was very steep and clay like I took the first tumble. I think it was fun for all to see Mummy slip and land in deep mud on her butt!
Bamboo sticks were found for the Max and the kids to help with the walking, I didn’t get one as my hand was still full with my useless but essential umbrella. We continued on down the steep hill for a few more minutes until Scarlett began screaming. For those who know me you will be unsurprised that my first thought was just that she now had her butt in the wet sticky mud and was over-reacting to the situation. On turning round she was as expected now sitting in the mud. What wasn’t expected was the blood pouring from her head.
Scarlett had managed to impale herself on the bamboo stick when she slipped down the bank. For all those who know Max you will be unsurprised that he had on a backpack with an extensive medical kit inside. This is where Max’s cautious attitude really helped. He had something called “wound seal” in his pack – just sprinkle onto the wound and it stops bleeding. It worked wonders. It did take him a bit of time to explain to the guide what it was, and she had already gathered some plants and was holding them to the wound – apparently it did the same thing – we went with the powder.
The guide was fantastic, calling a taxi to meet us back at the main road and giving Scarlett a piggyback ride all the way – even more impressive when you think that this lady was only really Xander’s size and in plastic slipper type shoes. It was still absolutely terrifying being in the middle of nowhere with a distraught child with a very deep wound right between her eyes.
Scarlett was treated at the local hospital, needing a wound cleaned and three stitches. The experience was not good, as even the anaesthetic was administered with a large needle. The people were great and she was all fixed up for the very expensive sum of $20.
Obviously this mean the end of the trek and no homestay. Xander was gutted. Therefore, despite our experience, Max and Xander attempted the trek again the next day. Still terrible weather but at least predicated to get better by lunch. After a restful night in the hotel both Scarlett and Laura were feeling better so we went on a scary taxi ride to meet the intrepid trekkers in one of the mountain villages, Tan Van.
In the village we had a Batik class by our guides aunt. We sat outside her craft shop on very small plastic chairs around a small fire pit, used to melt our wax, and did Batik. It was absolutely brilliant. Everyone had an amazing time, I think even the locals did who seemed to enjoy our presence and gathered round at various times to watch us. We finished our pieces and left with them a quite a few pieces from the shop (shirt, bags, purses, headscarfs). Still one of my favourite days of the trip so far – I don’t know if that was become it came after such a deep low, but it was fantastic and I would highly recommend SapaSisters.
I could keep talking about SaPa. I loved it. The main streets were lots of fun, and turned into a river when the rain came down (which was often). The clouds were always very low in the sky and we didn’t really get many of the famous views of the rice paddy terraces. The locals, from the different indigenous people, were very colourful and I especially loved the headscarfs. Food was fabulous and cheap and the ambiance of the place was very chilled.