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!

En route to Sapa

I am finally dragged away from the fantastical Bac Ha market and we’re on our way to Sapa, our final destination for the day.

Enroute we visit one of the many traditional hill tribe villages to get a sense of what life is like in the green hills around Sapa.

This is Trung Do village of the Tay minority. Situated in the stunning verdant hills, it is a very simple, basic even, way of living.

The villagers main employment is farming and livestock and you can find animals everywhere! Many of which will end up at Bac Ha market.

The landscape in this rugged terrain is simply incredible. It’s one of the greenest places I have ever visited.

Here’s some very grainy footage of some of the amazing scenery as we wind our way upwards to Sapa.

We can already start to see the rice fields, laid out in little squares and terraces.

And a photo stop at a viewing platform gives me the first proper panorama of the rice terraces, something I have wanted to see for over a decade!

Absolutely amazing! And there will be LOTS more where that came from!

But for we now we can sit back and relax in Sapa with a cocktail and a view to treasure forever!!

Rainbow women

We’re carrying on with our fascinating snoop around Bac Ha market in Sapa, North Vietnam.

Some of the sights make uncomfortable viewing for more western eyes including huge vats of horse stew – a delicacy here.

As a life long vegetarian I am fair happier, and in my element, in the colourful fresh produce section of this sprawling market.

It’s also the ideal place to watch / stalk more of the wonderfully attired local hill tribe ladies.

I think the rows of rainbow bright women above belong to the Flower H’mong tribe. Famed for their colourful clothing, a mix of traditional and modern man-made fabrics.

Another typical sight is the traditional conical hat – not just a sterotype but a very real, very commonly worn article in Vietnam.

The iconic headwear, known as non la, are handmade from bamboo and palm leaves and protect farmers from the scorching heat that can reach over 40c.

Sugar cane, rambutan and a whole host of delicious, colourful delicacies can be found heaped high in every corner.

But it’s not just edibles that you can buy – oh no – anything from brooms, saucepans and wellies to house bricks, cattle and even, sadly, cats and dogs for eating.

Or, if you’re one of the elder gentlemen, you can literally drink yourself into a stupor with this homebrew!

Just decant it from the large plastic jugs into your own container and weave your way home!

Colourful chaos

Carrying on with our exploration of the incredible Bac Ha market, we’ve taken a break for a refreshing beverage.

Coconut juice is just one of the many flavoursome drinks on offer, but caffine addict hubby is fixated on the strong local coffee!

We’re heading deeper into the market now and the vendors get closer together, the piles of fresh produce pile higher and we can really start to see some of the local characters.

We are also seeing more of the amazing traditional outfits of the many hill tribes who come to Bac Ha to trade, haggle and also meet potential marriage prospects.

These elaborately attired women come from miles around, often on motorbikes landed with veg, fruit and live stock.

One of the most colourful tribes is the Flower Hmong. Their cultural dress is a mix of traditional craftsmanship with modern materials.

Costumes cover women and children in a rainbows of colours from head to toe using heavy pin stripe appliqué, hand embroidery and beaded fringe work.

Other Vietnamese hill tribes include the Black H’mong who are skillful at using indigo dye to create their traditional dress, the red Dao and the Dzay.

Lots more colourful snaps from this incredible market to come. 🙂