March 2, 2012

Hi-Ho Sapa!

Francis Parker School - South to North - Day Ten

This morning we awoke on the Orient Express, a night train that connects Hanoi to the northern region of Lao Cai. We traveled for nearly 9 hours through the Vietnamese countryside. When we arrived at the station in Lao Cai, a bus was waiting to take us up the treacherous path to the mountainous region of Sapa. The view from the windows of our bus was breathtaking; majestic valleys and picturesque mountainsides. After 38 miles of switchbacks and cliffside roads, we made it to Sapa.

As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were swarmed by the local Hmong women asking where we came from and trying to sell their crafts. After checking into the luxurious Bamboo Sapa Hotel, we went out to breakfast at a local buffet. The food was good, but very westernized as a result of the large tourism industry in this beautiful town. Our tour guide, the famous Bui Van Quan, took us on an adventure into the misty mountains of the Cat Cat village. From there, we descended into the Sin Chai valley, where we saw a magnificent waterfall. After crossing a very precarious bridge, we rested for a few minutes at an abandoned French hydro-electric power station. From there, we started our ascent back to the village. He hiked through rice paddy terraces for about two hours until we reached the road, where another bus took us to lunch.

We had lunch at a nice Vietnamese restaurant, where the food and service was good, but the view was better. After that, we wandered around the town for a while until meeting up for dinner. The town of Sapa is small and very high up. The town is very similar to the French Alps and draws a lot of French tourism. It is by far the coldest part of the trip with temperatures of 8 degrees Celsius (46 Fahrenheit). The mountains reach so high that the clouds wander through town like confused tourists.

After we all met up, we went to dinner at a nice restaurant near the hotel. After the short hours of sleep we received last night on the train, we all decided to call it a night so we could enjoy our nice spacious hotel beds.

— Cara Stiegler and Maxwell Lee

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