Tuesday, March 18, 2008

January 29-31, 2008: Sa Pa

Once we landed in Vietnam, it was dark. We headed into town from the airport, to the train station, which was a long ride. First impressions of Vietnam? Intense. That describes the whole country all over in one word. We were barely able to get a taxi to where we wanted to go, because not very many people speak English well enough there. We were with 2 other girls who were staying at a hotel in town; we wanted to take a night train to Da Lat. There was a miscommunication, as we ended up in town by where we thought the station was, but it wasn't... I think those girls probably got dropped off right at the train station. It was a long day and night, and finally we took another long expensive taxi ride to the station, and hassled our asses off to get a car with beds. We were with two Vietnamese people, one girl who was working there during her school break for Chinese New Year (the worst several weeks to travel Asia). She was nice and spoke a bit of English, but said the weather wasn't great in Sa Pa. Well, it was worse. It was below 0 degrees celcius, so foggy you couldn't see 50 ft, and raining. It's close to the top of a mountain, so the views are amazing and there are villages close by you can hike to, but none of that was included in our stay. We were charged for a crappy heater in our sub zero celcius room, and heaters in most buildings were coal in open steel cage type things (not safe for health/fire hazards). We didn't have any warm clothing (we're traveling Asia, dammit!), and were miserable. After the night train arrived, we got on a bus at 4 something am, and took a long, windy, sickness-inducing (luckily I wasn't the only one this time!) ride up the mountain. We stayed one night, then left the next day, but those were the longest couple dozen hours of our trip.

Village girls and women that make the multiple-hour hikes from their villages to the town, where they sell items to tourists and at the market..

Many villagers wake up hours before the sun to make the trip.. Most speak English better than the towns-folk!

Death heaters.... that don't work at all..

Visibility: not much..

Restaurants with fireplaces were the only place you could find a little heat... I mean, A LITTLE.. This is the only thing we did the whole time: hang out at this expensive restaurant by the fire/gato..

Local village savage..Photos and copyright: Jeremy Hohengarten 2008
For editorial use only.

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