apa: Tribes and Terraces


May 1-3, 2001

Two Nights in Sapa, Cool Oasis

Our next two days formed a kind of hiatus in our great circle from Hanoi to the northwest and back. We spent them in Sapa at the Cat-Cat Guesthouse. We had a nice room that opened onto a large terrace that would have had a fabulous view of the valley below and across the valley the range of mountains that culminates in Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak at 3,000+ meters. Sadly for us, we arrived just as a day of rain set in and so had only fleeting views.

Unlike the previous stops, Sapa was filled with foreign tourists and all of the paraphernalia that comes with them, notably souvenir sellers like the one in the photo who took quite a shine to Gerry and his beard. We contributed to the influx by buying various knick-knack from this lady and her friends. We did, however, manage to spend a couple of hours on our first day walking down a ways into the valley to see a couple of ethnic villages (and battle with some nasty guard dogs), and Gerry even braved the downpour on the second day to venture out into the valley in the opposite direction, but all in all Sapa did not show herself at her best. We will have to go back.

The next three days were long, hard drives for the most part but made worthwhile by the mountain and valley views we got on the way and by the small (and not so small!) hurdles that we had to overcome every now and then with our jeep. We have to say that our driver faced them with a calm that we could only admire. The journey was also worthwhile for the taste of history we got from our day spent in Dien Bien Phu which coincided with the anniversary of the Viet Minh victory there.

At last however, we arrived at our final destination, the Thay village called Ban Lac near the small town of Mai Chau.

Updated July 20, 2003