Marvellous markets

From the serene green of Mai Chau we’re thrust back into the hectic hustle and bustle of Hanoi with its waves of moped riders.

We’re nearing the end of this epic trip but we’ve still got a day left to go explore some more . . .

That can only mean one thing . . . MORE MARKETS!!!! Here we are in the night market in the centre of the old quarter.

I have had my eye on these tasty, colourful, frozen treats all week . . . not too sure how good they are for your innards but they look very pretty with their dry ice plumes . . .

Enjoy a close up of these water coloured, icy beauties!!! 🙂 🙂

And here’s the stall keeper, trying to studiously avoid catching my eye . .

The next morning I am still alive and not frozen solid internally so off we go.

First a little mild stalking of the basket carriers (it’s par the course now, like a daily habit) then off to check in again at train street as we want to see the beast in the day – but alas not the right time! Try again later . . .

A back street alley reveals a slightly rickety hot drinks stand.

And we spy piles of yet more mopeds – I wonder what they call a group of bikes? A rabble, a roar, a cacophony? . . .

Lots more of this vibrant city to come before we hop back on the plane!

Final bike ride

We’re nearing the end of our epic tour of North Vietnam and we’re off to another tiny village and more bone shaker bikes!

We’re in Mai Chau – a collection of villages, farms and huts spread out through a green large valley, home to the white Thai minority.

We’re peddling through yet more epic scenery. Lush green rice paddies stretch as far as the eye can see.

Beautiful, multi storied wooden houses are dotted throughout the verdant fields.

Huge lotus plants and miles of empty road beckon us on.

Naturally, I am less than graceful onboard two wheels . . . .

Of course, the bike fanatic is in seventh heaven and finding it all rather amusing!

This jaunty yellow van doubles as a little plant stall – I am dragged past it!

In one of the small villages we pass through, stalls are groaning under piles of beautiful local handicrafts including traditional headwear and beautiful cloth.

Like huge, patterned butterflies, these skirts look set to flutter away.

And here we watch one of the local women producing some of the wonderful colourful cloth.

It looks like rather hard work! No wonder they are all so slim and healthy.

As the rain rolls in we bid farewell to our last glimpses of rural Vietnam – for the time being at least.

Nowhere I have travelled can hold a candle to the natural beauty of Vietnam’s emerald green countryside.

Hubby looks a little awkward here as his sandals have got soaked in this irrigation channel!!

Back to train street

We keep on gravitating back to this chaotic, crazy little corner of Hanoi.

We are determined to see the flippin train come through if it’s the last thing we do!

So we grab our beverages, plonk ourselves down and wait . . .

While we wait we enjoy some people watching, cafe owners serve customers, families eat on the tracks and life carries on around us.

And then . . . joy of joys, as the dusk closes in, we hear it first . . . an ominous rumble followed by cafe owners hustling us away from the tracks.

And finally!!!! It arrives . . . thundering past at very close quarters! Terrifyingly close!! Apologies for the rather bad language but heck it was a bit hairy!!

More street scenes

We’re off exploring the gritty streets of Hanoi again, and first up we head back to Train Street to see if we have any luck this time!

Enjoying a beverage and hoping to get an up close experience with a train.

We enjoy some iconic sights as we wait, but alas, no train again!

Never mind, there’s still plenty more to explore in this vast, fascinating city.

From ladies in traditional conical hats to mountains of cheap souvenirs.

Whole streets are dedicated to single types of goods including kitchenware and temple decorations.

Here’s one of the most iconic places in Hanoi, the President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

It is the resting place of Vietnamese Revolutionary leader and President Ho Chi Minh.

The imposing building is located in the centre of Ba Dinh Square.

The square is where Ho, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Vietnam from 1951 until his death, read the Declaration of Independence, essentially establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Hello Hanoi!

Again! Back in the bustling chaos that is Hanoi. Bleary eyed after rolling off the night train at 6am and unable to check into our hotel until 3pm!!!

So we while away a few early morning hours people watching. And Hanoi is very very full of people!

Whether they are wheeling their fresh produce along the street or making a scented spectacle.

Hanoi is a heady mix of modern and deeply traditional. Rich and incredibly poor. Old ways still pervade in a city swathed in pollution from a million mopeds.

We stumble across this group of energetic young dancers practising their routines.

This seems to be a favourite past time for young Vietnamese as you’ll see lots of groups of teens dancing or improvising on the street.

Then finally we can check into our final hotel of the journey, the glorious The Light Hotel.

One of the few hotels in Hanoi that can boast of a (very vertiginous) rooftop pool!

A perfect place to cool down and relax after humid, gritty days sight seeing in the busy city. Up here you could be a million miles away from the grimy chaos below!!

Final trek

It’s the final few pictures from our wonderful two day trek through Sapa.

We’ve conquered the humidity, the rain, the bugs, the hills and the mud!!

It’s been the most amazing few days, exploring some of the most incredible scenery and wonderful people.

There are about a million pictures of me like this – red faced, sweaty and holding up the group!

But turn the camera round and you get yet another amazing panorama!!

And another of me . . whoops 🙂 🙂 🙂

A finally, cheesy, farewell from us sweaty pair as we wave goodbye to amazing Sapa.

Home stay

Just as the rain starts to really lash us luckily we arrive at our home for the night.

(After teetering over this rickety bamboo bridge first!)

We’re stopping in this wonderful wooden house, home to a family of the Dzay minority – one of the many hill tribes in the area.

What an incredible place to live – and what a view as the sun starts to set over more flooded rice terraces.

The wooden house is solid and warm, but there is fairly little in the way of what we would consider home comforts with a concrete floor and plastic chairs.

The bedrooms are bare brick but the beds are very comfortable complete with mozzie nets and warm blankets.

We spend a very cozy night with the family, try our hand on making fresh spring rolls and then we’re off again!

Trekking through more little hamlets, all with their own rice cultivation.

Some more grainy footage of the amazing area here!

SO lush and green

Welcome to another edition of ‘let’s look at green rice terraces’ . . . .

I make no apologies for my boundless delight in cataloguing the delights of Northern Vietnam. It really is some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen.

The endless rice fields are broken up by the occasional little hamlet with corrugated tin roofs and mud banked walls.

But even high in the hill of Sapa you can still hear to incessant, and annoying, drone and pop of the ubiquitous moped – the plague of Vietnam’s roads!

The fox sums it up – I really do feel lucky to be here and experiencing this wonderful country again.

A slightly nerve wracking river crossing to be negotiated just as the rain starts to fall . . .

We are going to stay overnight with a local family of the Dzay minority

We will be having a cooking class to learn how to cook some traditional Vietnamese food too.

We’re nearing the homestead just as the heavens really start to open!

Trekking tourists

Brace yourself for lots more pictures of the Sapa rice terraces!

April is still a wet month so the terraces are really muddy and slippy.

Look at the gorgeous bright green of the baby rice shoots starting to poke through.

The terraces double up as duck ponds with a view for local wildlife.

It’s thirsty work trekking so we stop off at a local restaurant for a bite to eat and a fizzy beverage.

I might be a bit hopped up on sugar here……..

Enjoy some more grainy footage of our wanderings…..

The rice fields change with the seasons so depending when you visit you will see a very different scene.

April is when the fields are still being prepared so you won’t see the endless greens until about June or July.

But you can still see the amazing structural elegance of the terraces, enjoy the sunlight bouncing off the mirrored glass of the watery fields and start to spot the baby rice!

Sapa trekking

After a good nights kip at the wonderful Sapa Vista Hotel we’re all set to start our two day trek into the rice terraces of Sapa.

I have been waiting for this moment for 10 years! Ever since I returned from my first trip to the south of Vietnam I have been a trifle obsessed with the verdant terraces of the North.

And here they are!! Every bit as amazing as I had hoped.

We start off in a group but then head off on our our with our diminutive local guide, who tells us her name is Cuckoo!!

She’s a tiny ball of energy, bouncing from rock to rock like a nimble mountain goat as we struggle to keep up!

Cuckoo is from one of the local hill tribes, as are most of the guides.

Meaning she has an impressive knowledge of the area, plus seems to know everyone we pass!

As we visited Sapa in late April, the rice planting is just starting, meaning that we didn’t get to see the fully green terraces.

But the vivid lime green areas you can see are where the tiny new rice shoots are starting to grow.

At this time of year the terraces are full of water, which when hit by the sun, are almost blinding. Hence their name ‘broken mirrors’

Tiny clusters of houses cling to the terraces, almost in the middle of nowhere and add to the charm of this amazing area.

We’re heading for our evening rest stop in a local hill tribe homestead. More to come!