On the first day of our trekking in Sapa we were on the road for about 5 hours, weaving through the rice fields and mountains, meeting some locals along the way and a lot of animals. It was an easy but beautiful route.
For the second part (day) of the trek, CO our guide from Sapa O’Chau, gave us 2 options: (1) the ‘shortcut”, which would have been similar to the first day’s route or (2) a longer way, requiring us to cross rivers and trekking on tight, single lane, less treaded path. Without hesitation, all of us went for the 2nd option! So after we said goodbye to the local ethnic minority family (and the puppies!) whom we stayed with for the night, we were on our way!
It was a beautiful day with some sunshine but it wasn’t too warm.
We walked downhill for a while, came to a stream, then to a river.
At this point CO stopped and looked at the river, then started to walk back and forth. “Are we crossing this river?” somebody asked. Right after she answered yes, we all helped to check and determine which part of the river is the safest for everyone to cross. We then very excitedly took off our shoes.
And some started to cross the river!
CO turned to me and said “Ling, you cross with me ok? We are (of) similar (height).” I wasn’t going to turn down that offer since the river appeared to have some pretty strong currents (not that you can see from the picture). Jen, one of the American ladies, joined us since she too was about our height. So the 3 of us held hands and crossed the river together, which frankly wasn’t too difficult except for the slippery (and sometimes sharp) rocks underneath – just had to tread carefully and walk slowly.
After we got across to the other side of the river, we dried our feet as much as we could, put our shoes back on and off we went again. We trekked up and downhill, on muddy road sometimes but definitely steeper than Day 1’s route. The scenery was equally amazing.
We trekked along the edge of the mountains where it seemed very few people would go, cutting across overgrown grass and bushes.
When we came across locals working in the field, CO would chat with them and explain to us what they were doing. For example the woman in the picture below was winnowing the harvested rice grains by standing precariously along the edge of the mountain. The bamboo was skillfully tied together forming her only safety and working device. If she slipped, I don’t know how deep into the valley she will fall or if she will even survive. Scary!
It was truly amazing to see how the people work with minimal amount of machineries and try to maximize the power and potential of the resources they possess. It’s beautiful!
For lunch, CO brought us to a nice and remote river bank for a picnic. There was even a small waterfall nearby which we could catch glimpses of just by hopping onto the rocks around.
She laid down some huge leaves from a nearby tree on the grass for us to sit. Then she took all the ingredients for our picnic out from her bamboo basket and started to clean, peel and cut them. The rest of us helped with the hard-boiled eggs.
It was a great place for a picnic especially when we had the whole place to ourselves.
All of a sudden, it started raining! Everyone tried to grab hold of their raincoats / jackets / umbrellas and protect the food at the same time! Meghann, the other American lady who had a big poncho, offered to cover the food so the 2 of us were holding on to the poncho and umbrella with CO continuing to prepare the food underneath! Now that’s what I call professionalism! Too bad we didn’t manage to take any picture; it would have been somewhat comical.
Luckily the rain stopped after about 10mins with the passing cloud. When the rain stopped, our food was ready too! Yay!
With a full and satisfied stomach, we continued trekking. There was a steep uphill climb where men on motorbikes carrying sacks of rice were trying to get their bikes and goods all the way to the top. It was difficult because of the steep slope and the rain earlier made the road muddy. So we helped them push their motorbike.
Ok fine, Paul, the only man in the group helped and we just took pictures of him doing the hard work! I know it’s not right but it was hilarious to watch.
For the rest of the trek, we witnessed more stunning landscape, walked right next to an un-harvested rice field, saw more animals, saw families working in the field and children running around, care-free.
I understand that many children here do not go to school as their family need their help in the field or to take care of their younger siblings at home. Like this young girl.
We completed our trekking in Sapa in about 4.5 hours with a van ready to pick us up at the main road. The van then drove about 15 minutes to get us back into the Sapa town.
I am truly glad that I decided to spend most of my limited time in Vietnam out here in Sapa. We had a good guide, the company was great and the place was gorgeous. I didn’t think I would enjoy myself so much. 🙂
Have you been to Sapa? Did you visit their rotating markets like this one?