My favourite part of the Vietnam trip when I travelled in October was the 2-days trekking in Sapa with Sapa O’Chau which included a 1-night homestay with a Red Dao (pronounced as zao) family. The homestay was an incredible experience. You will want to read about it, trust me!
Back to my trekking trip – I was glad that my guide CO (pronounced as Ger) for the Lung Khau Nhin Market was also our guide for the trekking trip. She was friendly and informative during the market tour. I enjoyed her company immensely. She didn’t disappoint for the trekking trip as well.
I was given a choice to either meet up with the group (of other trekkers, all strangers) at Sapa O’Chau café (which is located further in the town) or wait at my hotel since they would be passing by anyway to the beginning of the trekking route. I chose the latter and was told to wait at the hotel at around 9.30am.
At 9.30am sharp, I sat at the hotel lobby and kept looking out of the glass doors but saw no CO. I thought maybe I heard them wrongly the day before and they were meeting at the café at 9.30am instead. So I estimated that they would probably arrive before 10am after taking into account the 15mins walk from the café to the hotel. I waited and waited…
However, at about 10am, there was still no sign of CO. Did they forget about me? Did they cancel the trip without informing me? I needed to find out what was going on! The hotel receptionist was kind enough to help me make a call to Sapa O’Chau; only then was I being informed that the train arrival time of two of the trekking group members had been delayed and the setting out time had to be pushed back by another 45mins or so! Frankly I was a bit pissed because the company should have at least tried to contact me since they knew where I was staying. But because the lady on the phone sounded apologetic, I didn’t pursue the matter, plus I didn’t want to spoil my holiday mood either.
I could have gone out to explore the town a bit more but not knowing exactly what time they will be coming and to avoid having them to search for me after they arrived, I sat at the hotel lobby and chatted with the hotel staff, surfed the net and charged my electronic devices.
Finally just before noon, I saw a familiar face walking towards the hotel – CO! She apologised and explained what happened. Surprisingly I wasn’t that angry anymore and just wanted to get going. I’ve already wasted the whole morning!
And the Fun Begins
I met the other 4 trekkers (a couple from Netherlands and 2 friends from the States) outside the hotel, exchanged our hellos and started walking towards the mountains. There were a few ladies from the ethnic minority tribes following us and CO explained that they could help us on the way, if we ever needed. They will also ask if we want to buy their hand-made products (of course they will), which we could politely reject.
After passing the Sapa lake in the town centre, we walked along a dirt track and came to a small village and everyone got excited when we saw some animals. It was like a miniature zoo!
Along the way we also saw children playing marbles outside their home, totally unfazed by our presence.
As we walked slightly further, the horizon suddenly opened up and we saw the stunning landscape of Sapa with mountains and (not so) blue sky – apparently the locals were still burning their waste after the rice harvesting so the sky was a bit hazy. Nonetheless, what we saw was beautiful – vast open space with A LOT of greenery, mountains, mountain streams, rice padi fields with newly planted seedlings and even buffalos out in the fields just filling up their stomach.
CO introduced us to the indigo plant which the locals use to create dye. She asked for a volunteer who was willing to get his/her palms blue and passed the leaves she plucked from the plant to the volunteer and asked her to rub them hard between her palms. The palms did turn blue!
We continued on our trekking route, crossing fields and bridges, walking past more small villages along the way and saw more children and animals. It was an easy route so we had time to stop and admire the surroundings.
A few girls were playing something similar to “zero-point” (for those who remember) and another trekker tried to join in. It was pretty hilarious to watch and everyone was just laughing and having fun.
The trekking route was great not only because of the amazing landscapes but also because we didn’t see many other tourists on the same route. The only times we saw other tourists were when we walked past the “rest stops”. We were also the only ones at the place where we had lunch, a place which I guess is supported by Sapa O’Chau as well. I think a family stays here while running the ‘restaurant’.
We had a nice home-cooked lunch here which comprises rice (staple food for locals here), pork, spring roll, vegetables and soup. It was delicious! They even served us fruits after that.
After lunch, CO brought us inside the house with the owner showing us how they put a layer of wax over the fabric they dyed before making them into clothes. Basically after the cloth has been laid flat on the stone, one simply steps onto the roller and start rolling! It is a balancing act but she made it look easy.
Then I tried my hands on weaving. Oh my, it requires excellent hands-feet coordination which I thought I have but was obviously not up to the standard for this task! I was so afraid of damaging their half-finished product that I gave up quickly – not very proud but at least I tried!
To break the monotony of trekking, CO introduced a game that she used to play as a kid. She took a small branch of a plant along the way (which looked like a mini Christmas tree) and plucked a leaf from it and re-attached it back. Then she asked us to try and identify where the “re-attachment” was. It was quite hard in the beginning and took some of us a while to get the hang of it. The rest of the group still couldn’t do it at the end of the game! Ha!
When CO found some honeysuckle flower, she let us try sucking nectar out of them. I’ve heard about this but it was my first time trying. I was delighted when I could taste the nectar! It was fascinating!
The first day of our trekking in Sapa ended when we reached the Red Dao family. CO told us that the trekking on the 2nd day would be more exciting since we would be crossing rivers and trekking through less treaded path!
Have you been to Sapa? Click here to see what else you can do in Sapa.
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