Tag Archives: Vietnam

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

Dustland Fairytale – MuiNe

High Road to Mui Ne

Last Minutes in Hoi An

I  went back to the hostel 30mins before the scheduled bus pick-up time so i can take a shower and share one more round of beer with my swedish triad crew Peter, Jakob and Max. only to find out that the bus was ready to go, ahead of time. i asked if i can pull a 3minute quick shower( its a looong 12-hour bus ride i wanted to be fresh, clean and comfortable the least,ok don’t judge me if my idea of fresh and clean is a 3minute shower). but the driver said NO, we have to go.

so, with sweat from whole day of biking under the sun and some salt particles left on my hair/skin from swimming in the beach, i grabbed my backpack and hopped into the sleeper bus.

its time to leave the swedish triad in Hoi An and head to the Dustland Fairytale that is Mui Ne. at 6pm, we hit the road.
***
High-Fiving with new buds

in the bus i met Maggie & Adrian and Manfred- the german franks and the spanish bread meet pinoy pandesal.

the scenery in the bus window was totally changed. it looked like a different country altogether. from the thick forest mountains of Dalat to the dry deserted dunes of Phan Tiet. from the nippy chill to humid, warm atmosphere.

i am in sheer amazement of how varied Vietnam’s topography. theres just no two place(at least to where I’ve been)similar landscape-wise. Sapa is mountainous and all but not a tad similar to Dalat.

sun was up. mid day. the thousands of pine trees that divides the highway and the beach were motionless. no wind from the sea. tall pine trees were as still as a lampost.

bus was at least faster than the ones i took in Northern Vietnam. but of course it was still slow when it comes to Negros’ Ceres bus lines standards.

***
High-Rolling in Mui Ne

How does Lacoste for Dinner sounds like? high-rolling, eh?
i know its hard to picture that. me and high rolling just can not belong to one sentence. but this is a fairytale.

our accommodation was a PRIVATE room. on the topmost floor, make that a penthouse.
and…
and…
we had Lacoste for late-dinner.
posers wear that….us, it was our entree for dinner that night.
juicy and tender. soft to the bite.
almost-melt-in-your-mouth
so unreptile-ish of it.

maybe, its the wagyu of the crocodile world. now thats high-rolling, right?

after dinner, we headed to this bar to taste its premium offering which happened to be a draft beer; San Miguel. the place was neat, a sports bar by the beach. it was a pleasant surprise to learn that they serve San Miguel. and it was the priciest among their beers. which my latino friend insisted that it is a spanish import. he was so damn sure about it that even me who grew up on this beer made me harbour second-thoughts(thanks to google, i, now, know it is a Philipine brand).

***
High-Balling in Mui Ne

we rented motorcycles to better explore this vast deserted plain.

a hearty serving of Pho was obligatory before we headed out. so a healthy, filling and cheap at 20k dongs was the best way that kickstarted our long day of dustland adventure.

the Fishing Village harbor is along Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street or Ham Dien; which is pretty much the highway where all the happenings in town..errr.. happens. Its a long stretch where the hostels & hotels and bars are located. It is on the northern part of Mui Ne bay.  it was dotted with hundreds of traditional colourful wood vessels which were moored at the bay. it was a splendid view. it reminded me of old quaint european fishing villages( as per Game of Thrones)- very picturesque.

it was a hot-bike-ride(literally) going to the white dunes. its a little far from the town center.  but the roads were well-paved and the view was scenic. the endless sand banks on the left and the infinite sea on the right.


we had so much fun running around and tripping down foolishly in the dunes. we were like hansels and gretel left in the house of sweets, fun. the sweltering heat was only noticed when our skins started to turn as red as the Vietnam flag. the view of the sea from afar was equally stunning.

tumbling down the dunes

we made several stops on our way back to Ham Dien. rock island. fairy stream, red dunes etc.

at night, we capped off the day’s oppressive heat with cool big slices of watermelon, the best watermelon. it was refreshing. nights were usually spent on the sports bar by the beach over beers and billiard games.

***
High-Flying in Mui Ne

Mui Ne is the watersports capital of Vietnam. para-sailing and windsurfing can be a wise alternative when the sun rays get really harsh for biking to the dunes.

there is nothing extra-ordinary about the beach but it does the trick. on a blue-skyed day when roaming around and playing watersports become too hot(literally) to handle; grabbing a good book and a cold beer on the beach can be a delightful option.

***
Dustland Fairytale

these famed dunes and harbor are dreamy and stunning. they make striking subjects for photographs. I’m sure even non-photography enthusiasts would admire the lovely landscapes and seascapes.

in this fairytale, there is also a witch. the witch was the girl in Hoi An who sold us bus tickets for HoiAn-NhaTrang & MuiNe-Saigon(HoChiMinh). we paid for sleeper bus rates but she tricked us by issuing ordinary bus tickets as per advised by the booking office in Mui Ne. information on the tickets were in Vietnamese. we were subjected for extra dongs to upgrade for sleeper. witch bitch.

and just like any fairytale, theres a prince -charming and thats me( lol).

sharing the adventure with these nomads made the this trip more fun. as the maxim goes: we all start as strangers. later on the trip, me and the spanish bread travelled south to Saigon then east to ChauDoc etc etc then Bangkok. til he eventually visited Manila. the german franks still keep in touch.
this dustland story and just like all the other fairytales, it ended up with a happily-ever-after.

*dustland fairytale is a song from The Killers. fave band.