Monday, Feb. 21
Hiking is great.
But when you’re wearing rain boots (and given two left shoes), it’s not ideal.
Especially when it’s the rainy season and you’re traipsing along a muddy cliff edge in the fog.
That pretty much sums up our first two days in Sapa – a hillside region in Vietnam.
On Friday, we took a nine-hour overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa – a terrifying experience in itself.
Every time the train jolted we were thrown to the other side of our bunk beds, making for a long night.
The town of Sapa is located in the northwest of Vietnam near the Chinese border and is inhabited by minority people such as the Hmong and Yao groups.
The area is full of jagged mountains, layered in terraced rice paddies. From the right angle, they look like staircases, leading endlessly into the foggy sky.
We were supposed to take a four-day trek through the mountains, but for a few reasons, quickly bumped it down to two days.
Mainly because Matt caught the flu. But also because it was the most unsafe hike we’ve ever experienced.
On the first day it was so foggy we could barely see a thing.
We had a group of older tribal women leading us through the mountains, grabbing us by the wrists with their boney fingers.
They were dressed in colourful headscarves, traditional black cotton dresses and rain boots.
Hand-embroidered purses stitched in neon pink, blue, red and green were slung across their bodies.
They also had a thatched basket strapped to their backs holding goods to sell to tourists.
We walked along the rice paddies, visited a handful of villages and watched young boys celebrate New Year’s by throwing beanbags at a target.
On day two, we hiked through a muddy bamboo forest, washed our boots in creeks, and took in the sights of minority villages from the top of a waterfall.
And to top it off, yesterday we visited the Bac Ha market – a three-hour bus ride from Sapa.
While the woven purses, blankets and silver trinkets were beautiful, it was the women in their colourful, traditional clothing that made the market special.
This is what we expected Vietnam to be like.
And it was well worth the train journey.