Silhouette of Sapa: en route

stunning SaPa – makalaglag panty ang SaPa( tagalog translation)

Julie & I initially planned to travel to SaPa independently. But after checking the fare at the train station, we decided to drop the do-it-yourself plan and just go with a package tour since it was significantly cheaper. Package tour apparently cost a lot less. One of the few things I don’t get with Vietnam.

Train from Hanoi to LaoCai is around $58; a few dollars for the  bus/taxi from LaoCai to SaPa on top of that. Package tour was $70 and that included transportation (all the way to Sapa and back), accommodation, meals, and treks (tours).

It turned out be a good move. Not only did we save a couple of dongs but we also met travel buddies who, later on, became good friends.

Randy tagged along last minute. I met him and Julie at the backpacker dorm in Hanoi, May De Ville Backpackers, some 8 days ago. We shared the same room.

It took me a couple of days and a bloody nose to adjust to these two native English speakers, especially Julie who happens to be a scot. Damn thick Scottish accent. I find it cute though.

The bus picked us up at the hostel at around 8 pm. Bus was 30 minutes late. So, to make up for the tardiness, the driver drove like a maniac. He could pass for a lead act in the next Fast & Furious franchise. He swerved and honked our way out of Hanoi’s busy rush hour traffic. I was smiling at first since I found his driving familiar and “cute” but after a couple of life-and-death swerves, I got scared. I noticed myself mumbling “oohs” and “ahhs” and my grip on my sit tightened. For someone to scare a Filipino- who grew up riding jeepneys(patok) in Manila- with his driving expertise, he must be some badass. Just saying.

The ride to Sapa was a smooth one but that’s for Cordilleran standards. I’m used to long bus rides, bumpy roads and zigzag highways in the sky. I guess when you tried riding on top of a bus traversing a single-lane rough road on the edge of 50 feet high cliff; it will have to take something special to scare you. Right?

The bus was comfortable. It was a sleeper bus. There’s a plenty of legroom for a comfortable stretch. Cozy for Asian standards (height-wise). (Yao Ming is not Asian, he is Chinese. lol) so German dogs Max and Steffen has to lie down with their feet on the head of the passengers in front of them.

It was a scenic ride especially the final stretch to Sapa. From LaoCai, where the final station of train is at, the drive shifted from easy ascends to a steep uphill jaunts.

As the bus’s engine struggled and roared, we sat back, relaxed, enjoyed and waited as the night gave way to the day. Stunning sceneries started to unravel from the thick fog that blanketed the place. The mountains began to reveal its shape and greens. Sunrays pierced through the clouds.

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. The listless provincial town was slowly waking up and so did the eager travellers. All eyes were glued outside. Cameras were drawn out and everyone snapped away to their hearts content.

We arrived in SaPa and alighted to a nippy midmorning. Air was crisp and fresh. Sun peeped out but not fully. It’s a perfect day for a walk or bike around this little charming town tucked in the mountains of northern Vietnam.

We checked in at Sapa Summit Hotel (part of the package). It was our home for the next 3 days. It was a lovely hotel perched on a cliff that overlooked SaPa’s stunning stairway-to-heaven’s rice terraces. On the backdrop was the mighty Fansipan. It is the highest peak in mainland Southeast Asia. The silhouette of the towering mountain ranges that lead to Mt. Fansipan was equally arresting as the rice paddies. We stood dumbfounded in the balcony.

The hotel was not too shabby either. It is fairly new, neat, and homey. The hotel’s restaurant has a patio perfect for al fresco dining. It leads to a garden nicely landscaped and coupled with tables and chairs and swings. Its perfect for lazy afternoon reads while sipping a hot tea or coffee. Factor in the sweeping scenery in front and the cool temperature and I bet any bookworm who chooses to stay here will find their selves holing up for days on end.

Julie and I settled into our room. We then met up with randy in the patio for a sumptuous lunch. I forgot what I ordered though I remember enjoying it. I guess, with this setting, they can serve me egg and rice and I will dine delightfully every time.

After lunch, we rented motorbikes. It was time to discover this hilly paradise that is SaPa.

*Next post: The Sonnet of SaPa

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