Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sapa: If the French Alps had Vietnamese tribal folk...

Getting There: We took the overnight sleeper bus from Hanoi which departed at 7pm and arrived around 6am. However in reality the bus left around 8:30pm and arrived 12 hours later.

We calculated the bus ride should take just 5hours based on actual distance. However all buses in Vietnam take an unbelievable amount of time and are incredibly bumpy and jerky. Impossible for an insomniac like myself to sleep. Although the sleeper buses are quite well designed....for Asian physiques. They do all vary slightly in size, we took an older bus (to Hue) which was very spacious and comfortable but the newer buses were smaller.

Upon arrival in Sapa we were approached by some local tribes women who wanted to sell us EVERYTHING! One of the women was offering to take us on a tour to her village but we decided to make some enquiries at hotels etc first. We enquired for a 2 day 1 night homestay program visiting a few villages on the way and were quoted $30 pp. However, after a day of being followed by 'Shu' and the nonstop banter with the H'Moung tribe ladies we decided it would be much more fun to do the tour with them. We agreed on $20 pp for a tour of their village and an over night stay.

We shopped at the local market and transformed ourselves into fully fledged H'moung tribal ladies, except the skirt and strange leg warmers-its damn cold in these parts! Shopping in the market was actually great fun. The woman of both the H'mong and red Dzao tribes spoke brilliant English and bartering with them was great banter, some of our favourite sayings:

"Why you no buy from me, you buy from her but no from me, she happy but me cry!"
"OK, OK, OK, this one, this one, you buy one from me and one from her. We happy, you happy!"

The women were in great spirits and I even tried to sell them a few things of my own using their style of sale which they seemed to enjoy, although I was unsuccessful in my attempt. We thought once we had bought things they would stop asking us in the streets, we were very wrong. Once you say look I have a skirt and a bag, necklace, bracelet etc they just say "but you no buy from me", "one more," "for your mum/sister/brother etc" they never give up!

We spent the rest of the day relaxing in Sapa which has an unusual and enchanting vibe. Visually it feels you are in the French Alps then a tribal lady with a checked headscarf and woven basket upon her back fast approaches: "YOU BUY FROM ME!"

We spent the evening drinking $1.50 Mojitos with fresh sugar cane (joys) by a fireplace listening to great music and wondering if tomorrow we would be walked into the tribal regions and abandoned or if the 'happy water' the boys were so excited about would kill us....

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