My second day of trekking in Sapa started off better than the first, mostly because I got a good night’s sleep and it wasn’t raining. After breakfast at my hotel (which incidentally looks a LOT more elegant in these photos) with some other tourists who were also from the same hostel in Hanoi, I walked with my tour-buddy Lisa into town to meet our tour group. The downtown area was bustling with locals buying vegetables in the market, transporting livestock and hassling tourist to buy “hande-made” goods. Our tour guide later told us that she knows most of the goods are imported from China, ha.

I took some great photos of the local women; the kind that really make people jealous you were able to interact with such “authentic” and unique cultures. I know a lot of the women wear their traditional minority clothing for tourists now, but it still looks amazing and the Sapa Valley minority groups still seem to thrive in this area. Our group for the day consisted of multiple guides from the Mao minority village, and 5 females in their late 20’s. We were a chatty and energetic group from America, Canada, Switzerland, France and Germany…which made sliding down the muddy hills together all the more fun. Due to the rain our knee-high rubber boots became essential for the hike, and once I stepped in a mud pit so deep that the tall boots saved me by just an inch. While the minority women practically skipped down the muddy hillside, us foreigners labored through the mud-drenched paths, often taking a hand for balance.

Despite the fog, the rivers alongside the muddy trails were a stunning aqua-marine color and the bamboo was thick and impressive. We came across quaint village homes that were stunningly set between miles of terraced rice fields, and somewhat larger villages that were bustling with activity. There were children whipping around on bikes too-large for their bodies, 7 year-olds leading heards of oxen, families busily preparing meals for Tet, pigs and other animals tending to their young, and of course, the minority women hawking their wares. One of the photos below depicts two boys cleaning a pig in the river in preparation for their feast. Also, the photo of two young kids on the steps of a run-down, vacant-looking building, is actually a hospital in one of the towns.

I was a bit sad when the trek ended for the day, as I could’ve spent a few more hours wandering around those villages…every single thing I saw was picturesque. Little did I know that I probably should’ve just trekked back to my hotel instead of waiting for our “shuttle bus.” We waited for two hours to get picked up due to some miscommunication and the lack of employees during Tet. Then, when a beat-up, rusty, old pick-up truck finally jammed us all in, it broke down 20 minutes later. The driver spent a good half an hour getting the thing running again, while my ever-positive group assured our cute tour guide that we didn’t mind.

After tipping our tour guide $5 USD (which nearly doubled her days pay) Lisa and I headed back to the train station. We ate some Vietnamese egg rolls before hopping back on the night train, and this time I slept pretty hard. I arrived back at Hanoi around 5am, checked my email for a bit at the Rendezvous Hostel, and headed back to the airport for a flight to DaNang!

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