I feel so thankful today for how the day turned out. We had planned to take the cable car to Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest mountain. However it was very misty and we decided to change plans and do a hike to the Cat Cat Village – a Hmong village about an hour’s hike down and two hours’ hike up on the return leg. As we walked down the street the drizzle steadily became more intense and we went into a cafe to wait the rain out. After an hour of waiting we decided it would be better to return to the hotel and rest while my daughter went for a shoulder and leg massage.
At about 12 plus the rain all but stopped and we decided to resume our planned hike. The air was pleasantly cool and fresh and there were many lovely views of the valley and its rice terraces and the mountains with their summit clouded by mists. We took many photos and about halfway down a kind Vietnamese couple signed to us if we wanted a lift to the entrance of the Cat Cat Village. We went in happily and though they did not speak a word of English, they signed to us their intentions. Ten minutes later we were at the entrance and paid about SGD $6 to enter this Hmong village. We were praising God for this was not incidental but God’s provision.
It was a route of 2 to 3 kilometres that brought us past a school, village homes, stalls selling similar tribal products, and gardens, waterfalls, a theatre with free Hmong musical and dance performances. It was interesting, engaging, and with the mobile and photo taking opportunities, the minutes passed very quickly. By the time we covered the loop it was about 4 pm and it began to drizzle again. We took a cab for SGD$6 and it brought us back to our hotel. Along the way we passed many tourists who hiked up back to Sapa town. We estimated it would take us 2 hours to hike up, with the level of our fitness and a 4 out of 10.
This was a happy day, a happy Sunday, as we saw the Lord guiding and providing for us. However what disturbed me is to see little children as young as four or five selling sourvenirs with minders, sometimes the mother or grandmother several feet away to watch them. There is obvious poverty. I would have thought that the collection of fees and tourism would have made the lives of the villagers better. It probably does but I wished more education, affordable medical care, and marketable skills could be given to the Hmong people so that they don’t have to be tourist attractions the rest of their lives.
It was a four hours bus journey from Hanoi to Sapa a town in the highlands. The Sapa Express bus seats were spacious and comfortable and the journey more pleasant than I had anticipated.
Sapa looked disorganized to my eyes. Huge buses bustling down the narrow streets with horns blaring. Cars moving at unsafe speed, turning and twisting to avoid quick motorbikes. The dirt on that covered the streets and made them brown and muddy. The fine dust stirred and hovered in the wake of every passing vehicle making mockery of the clean mountain air I hoped to find.
The hotel staff were professional and very hospitable and the room we were assigned beautifully decorated. We were recommended some places for lunch but we decided to follow TripAdvisor and made a beeline to Vietnam Emotion a restaurant frequented by Caucasians. We loved the look on the outside and the look inside and the food. Lovely place to have a lovely meal. We loved the decor and this is not the first time their cafes struck us with their original creations of interesting themes and design and decor.
There wasn’t much we could do because we arrived at around 12.30pm. So we decided to explore the streets of Sapa around the public square. We even entered to sit in silence in the pews of a Roman Catholic Church that was prominently located near the center. It is called the Holy Rosary Church or the Stone Church.
With a Google map and a data plan, there was no fear of getting lost. We walked around and found ourselves in streets away from the touristy streets, where most of the people were locals. Until we saw a hotel called Amazing Hotel with beautiful views of the Fansipan and other mountains. We decided to relax at the hotel cafe and enjoy the panoramic view of the distant mountains.
Tomorrow we hope to ascend the Fansipan but not by hiking but by the cable car.
Hanoi means “between two rivers”. I have always wanted to visit this city, the Halong Bay, and the Sapa mountains. Today my wife, daughter and I landed at a modern airport and literally Grabbed a cab to the Labevie Hotel in the French Old Quarter. We asked the hotel staff for some recommendations for the rest of the day. She recommended a restaurant nearby called Highway 4 and we had a kind of late but light lunch of a few Vietnamese dishes. Very satisfying food at reasonable prices.
Next we went to look for a lake nearby. Having found it we circled it at a leisurely pace. While it was hot and humid earlier on, the presence of trees and water and open space made the walk so much more pleasant and cooler.
Later we went to look at the Night Market about 10 minutes walk away but we were too early at 6pm. The night stalls had not set up shop yet. So we shopped along the street with its many shops selling clothes, bags, souvenirs, shoes and other stuff.
Having walked more than 10,000 steps, we felt tired and chilled out in a lovely cafe called, The Lissom Parlour. We bought bread in preparation for hunger pangs in the night and an early breakfast the next day. We will leave before the hotel breakfast is ready. We will take an early bus for the Sapa highlands from an office about 5 minutes walk from where our hotel is. I am looking forward to the fresh and cool mountain air and more family time.