Thanks to Kennysia, who introduced the Sapa Mountains to me when I asked him where I should visit in Vietnam.
In order to proceed to Sapa, we had to take an overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai Station at 9:15pm.
The interior of the train was so rundown and made us look like refugees! And they charged us $24 BLOODY USD’s for it??!!
Nontheless, we just had to bear with the blardy 9 hour journey via this old train to Lao Cai. How I survived the rocking cradle (read: the train), I just have no idea.
It was 5am in the morning when we reached Lao Cai station, only to be greeted by the freezing weather at 9°C. We quickly zipped our jackets all the way to the neckline.
The Lao Cai Station does not provide proper pathways for its passengers. Instead of paved walkways, we had to traverse across pebbles and railings in order to reach the platform leading towards the terminal.
We quickly paced towards the warmth of the terminal in the chilly air. There, the travel agency arranged for us for a 1-hour journey to the Sapa Mountains with the local shuttle bus service which started from Lao Cai at 6am.
By the time we reached Sapa, it was about 7:15am. And it was still super foggy in the mountain range. This particular lady looked as though she wrapped her whole head!
Walking along the streets in the town allowed me to paint a clearer picture of the the hill tribes’ lifestyle in Sapa Mountains.
The hill tribes in Vietnam originated from the mountains of China many centuries ago and till date the locals here make a living selling goods to tourists.
But trust me, when you visit Sapa Mountains during winter season, please prepare extra thick winter clothing.
I didn’t expect Sapa to be that cold so I only brought a normal jacket that served me well in Genting’s to fight off the cold here. Alas, my trusty old jacket failed on me and I had to wear several extra layers of T’s to make sure I didn’t freeze to death!
Contrary to the weather forecast of 12-15°C, it was 6°C when I reached this region of Northern Vietnam for goodness sake! Darn weather forecast.
The lady on my far right was actually persuading me to buy something from her. They started to pester and I had to be firm in saying NO to them. Oh, if you see ladies wearing a black head-cover, this means they are from the Black Hmong hill tribe.
The local tour guide brought us to Tram Tonh Pass in a jeep to catch the breathtaking view of the mountain range in Vietnam. See how breathtaking the scenery is? =)
As we neared the summit, the sun tormented our backs as the temperature rose considerably compared to Sapa town. I began peeling like an onion (read: taking off my jacket) because it started to get warm.
This waterfall behind us is a famous tourist spot but it dries up during the winter season. I guess if you visit here in the summer, you would be seeing lots of splash from this waterfall!
In the mountains, you would be able to see a lot of these “pit-stops” for you to enjoy some barbecued stuffs.
They normally barbecue eggs, potatoes, pork and chestnuts for sale to the tourists.
And guess what?
This BBQ-PORK is my favourite bite in Sapa ’cause it beats the one in Philippines!
In the afternoon, we were brought to Sapa Market, which is only available during the weekends. Luckily I chose to visit Sapa on a Saturday. If not, I would miss out this packed and colourful place.
Look how bizarre the bazaar is!
The women in red head-covers are from the Red Dzao hill tribe.
After the brief tour around the Sapa market, the local tour guide (who is also from the Black Hmong tribe) brought us for mountain-trekking to Cat Cat Village which took us approximately 3 hours of sore feet.
After walking for an hour, we finally reached the entrance of the Cat Cat Cultural Village.
My goodness, I couldn’t believe I had to trek a total in excess of 5km when the tour guide told me half way on the way down.
The villagers here dye cloths and sew them into dresses to be sold in the Sapa market for a decent living.
Mei Lem, our young tour guide was showing us the indigo plant that is used to make the dark blue dye for the Black Hmong tribe’s dresses.
The villagers are also into agricultural sector. You can see buffaloes everywhere around the paddy field in the village.
It was almost the end of village-trekking by the time we reached this shaky old suspension bridge.
I had to walk another 1 friggin’ hour back to the Sapa market from this point. Thank God I had the stamina to finish the journey. (I was panting heavily during the last 20 minutes of walking…hahaha)
By 630pm, we left Sapa mountains to catch the 8:15pm train back to Hanoi.
This time, we got a more comfortable cabin on the Tulico train for USD$27 per person.
Trust me, I slept like a piggy that night. Perhaps, I was pretty exhausted after the 5000km trekking to Cat Cat Village.