The picture below pretty much sums up our entire experience at Sapa, especially after the trek we did from March 25-26:
Mao showed up in front of our hotel at 9:30am, as promised. She told us that we would trek a total of 15 km to Lao Chai and Tan Van, sleep overnight in a H’mong home, and then trek back the next day. Photos below show the beginning of our trek:
After lunch, Mao pointed out her house to us when we walked through the village of Lao Chai. She was born and raised in this village, and now lives in this hut with her husband and 3 children. Here is a photo of Mao and her house on the hill:
While passing through a village, Chris was able to speak to a deaf H’mong woman via sign language:
More photos of our trek after lunch:
By afternoon, we arrived at our homestay. The H’mong family who hosted us (along with many other foreigners) were a husband, wife, a handful of children, some pigs and chickens, and this awesome dog named Pao (pronounced Paw).
Chris bonded with Lien, a super hyper-active boy. Selfie time!
Here are some photos of the H’mong guest house. This is the kitchen:
This is the stove/cooking area:
This is one of the side rooms, where the men constructed bed frames and dining tables:
This is the outdoor lounging area/dining area:
We mingled with a couple from Paris, Australia, and the US (Los Angeles). The Parisian couple helped prepare dinner by cutting some vegetables with the family:
For dinner, we ate a ton of homemade H’mong food, which was practically like Vietnamese food (spring rolls, rice, steamed/fried vegetables, pork and chicken, tofu, etc).
Not long after dinner, we all went to bed. Our beds were super comfy foam pads set up on the floor, with extremely fluffy blankets and mosquito nets that draped over. I was worried it would be cold at night, but the blanket actually made us too hot!
On Tuesday morning, Mao dressed me up in her traditional H’mong clothing because we were roughly the same size. Everyone got a kick out of this, especially when other H’mong girls arrived at the hut, stared at me for a few seconds, and exclaimed, “You not H’mong!!”
We waited for the morning rain to cease, and soon after we departed from our homestay. Mao asked us if we wanted to do the easy route or the hard route. Hard route, duh. =) To be honest, at least half of the route we took was pretty sketchy. In addition to the weather being slightly muggy and the route being super steep uphill and downhill, it had stormed that morning, so everything was wet and muddy. Our trek consisted of the following:
Hiking through steep bamboo groves:
Playing the balance beam by crossing through rice paddy terraces:
Following narrow paths along mountains to rocky paths and streams:
Steep paths into the rolling clouds:
And of course, breathtaking panoramic views:
Had a close encounter with some gentle water buffalo:
By the end of our trek, we were pooped. The “hard” way truly was strenuous! All us foreigners were amazed at how these little ladies are able to do this muddy, steep, and slippery trek in their cotton and hemp layers, rain boots and/or plastic slippers, and heavy jewelry. Our shoes looked pretty awesome…so thankful for Gore-tex!
The next day, March 27, we took the bus to the Lao Cai train station to catch the sleeper train going back to Hanoi. At the train station, we got our first bánh mì with rotisserie pork. It was seriously the best bánh mì ever! ❤ street food!
And finally, an awesome way to end our trip in Sapa: We got the whole car (4 soft sleeper beds) to ourselves! =D