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 πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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!

Bustling Bac Ha

Bac Ha is one of the most colorful ethnic markets of all Northwest Vietnam.

It is a fusion of the many different hill tribes that inhabit the Bac Ha mountain district and here you can easily distinguish them by their different colourful traditional clothing.

I was in seventh heaven surrounded by the colourful typical traditional costumes of local tribes including the Tay, the Dzay, the Red Dzao and the Black H’mong.

The market is set out in distinct areas, one for handicrafts, art and fabric, others for fresh vegetables, others for meat and fish.

Let’s take a wander to the visceral end of the market first shall we . . .

A stall holder singes the hairs off a leg of pork, she’s wielding that blow torch like a seasoned pro!

Whether it crawls, gallops, squirms or swims, it is probably to be found in this section of the market.

You don’t want to mess with this tiny but fierce lady!

As a lifelong vegetarian, I am always appalled, yet also strangely intrigued, by the bloodier aspects of other culture’s cuisine.

In the UK people have a very sanitised approach to the meat on their plate, they rarely see it butchered or make the connection between the live animal and the tasty end product.

Here however it is unavoidable, grisly and rather stomach turning!

Rocking, rolling, riding

Leaving Hanoi behind again for now we’re heading on another adventure.

This time to a place I’ve wanted to see for over a decade, ever since I came back from South Vietnam, I have been obsessed with the incredible scenery of the rice terraces of Sapa.

So we’re heading further North, aboard the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai.

We planned the trip, once again, through Vega Travel and it all went fairly to plan (except for the poor girl forgetting to pick up the train tickets and having to hightail it back to the office on her moped to grab them!)

We’re bunked up in a cosy little cabin of four people, meaning we’ll be sharing with some total random strangers! But it is quite comfortable.

However don’t expect to sleep much as the train is nosy and clanks and bangs all through the night! (and use the toilet as early as you can as it becomes rather ‘ripe’ later on . . )

The whole journey takes around eight hours and arrives at Lao Cai at 6am!

From there we’re whisked off on a private tour of Bac Ha market, a traditional local hill tribe market and one of the true highlights of our trip.

Here’s a little taster to whet your appetite!