(Day 335 to 338)
22.10.2010 - 25.10.2010 27 °C
We had a quick night in Hanoi before taking the night train to Sa Pa, a small market town on the edge of a high plateau which was once a retreat for French rulers. Being so high in the mountains its quite fresh (which we’re not used to). We came here, like most people, to enjoy the beautiful scenery of terraced rice fields, clean air, colour full markets and treks to the many minority villages (Black H'mong minority group). The vistas are really beautiful here, but if we were here a week or so earlier the sights of the golden rice fields would have been spectacular. We arrived as they were harvesting the rice so much of the fields had been cut already, although some large patches of undisturbed fields were still to be seen.
The night train was better this time round as we were able to sleep without the interruptions of our previous train ride. After arriving early, we had an awful breakfast at the hotel (part of the tour we were on) and then set off down towards Cat Cat village in the valley below Sa Pa. It was a pleasant walk down to the cluster of wooden houses amongst the rice fields, fruit trees and kids playing with the local tribal women walking up to market whilst spinning thread.
Sa Pa brought back happy memories of our time in both Bolivia and Peru. Bolivia because the cool air, towns in the mountains and the women walking around in their traditional clothes reminded us of La Paz. Peru, because the terraced rice fields are the same as the terraced fields used by the Incas around Cusco.
On our 2nd day we went to the famous Bac Ha Sunday market, about 3 hours from Sa Pa, and very close to the Chinese border. This is a colourful and largely authentic rural market. Colourful fabrics, touristy stuff, food, farming tools and animals (water buffalo, dogs, geese & pigs) are all sold here. Here we mingled with the colourful Flower H'mong minority group.
Another night train back to Hanoi and a night in Hanoi before moving out to Ha Long Bay.