The train ride to Sapa was nine hours, but I didn’t sleep much. I was excited about visiting the area and worried that someone would steal my things. I was in a cabin with three other French passengers who first spoke, and then snored very loudly…so I arrived to Sapa in a daze. Upon arrival, transportation again turned in to a interesting experience. My hotel wasn’t there with a sign, so I wandered around for a while asking buses if they went to the Sapa Eden Hotel, and eventually noticed that my signed woman had arrived. I hopped in a shuttle bus, only to sit for another hour while we waited for the NEXT train to arrive and took on some additional cash paying customers who didn’t have a reservation, hm.

I entered my freezing cold Sapa Valley hotel around 7am and headed immediately to my room for a nap. There wasn’t any heat, even in the 4th nicest hotel in Sapa, so I blasted the heat fan, turned on the electric blanket and slept in everything I brought. I woke up, had a nice breakfast, and headed out into the rain for my first trek. The group consisted of a young French-Canadian couple, an Australian architect, and another Canadian girl who was teaching English in South Korea and also booked the tour from my hostel. Our tour guide was the incredibly lively Miao (or something similar) who was from an indigenous village a few miles outside of Sapa. She was only 17 and spoke very good English, which she had astoundingly learned from tourists on her treks! We first visited CatCat village, which was a small (and currently rainy) mountainside village. Similar to the buttery yellow buildings I saw in Hanoi, each village had a large structure made of this same color, which Miao told me housed the local school. And look, a Chinese tourist posed to make me feel at home.

After about half an hour the skies cleared up and I took some amazing photos of the landscape and village animals and people. Check out the photo where a water buffalo is in the middle of our path! I have to say, that baby pig trying to drink out of the same bucket as a water buffalo was quite a site. What seemingly gentle giants! I also noticed how awesome even the scraggliest of Vietnamese dogs looked. They resemble different types of Shiba Inus, and seem like the perfect combination of strength and size, because they are mostly under 40 lbs. and can definitely run!

The hike was a short one, and we stopped around lunchtime to have a Vietnamese lunch back at the hotel. Afterwards, Lisa (the Canadian English teacher) and I decided to check out the town of Sapa. It actually felt and looked similar to a Colorado ski town, complete with stores selling North Face jackets, hiking boots and other gear for the inappropriately dressed. As I saw all over Vietnam, there were also lots of French coffee shops and cafes. We first took some coffee (hot chocolate for me) at one shop, and then walked up the street to have some previously recommended cinnamon apple tea from a restaurant called Gecko. Along the way we were harassed by surprisingly good English speaking minority women, who actually waited outside the shops asking, “You buy? You buy from me? OK, maybe later?” Their outfits were awesome, but I had already bought a scarf in the village, so they had to settle for a photo and our change from the hot drinks.