As if it couldn't get any better
There is one other area of the country that is also known for its beauty. The area is called Sapa and is in the northwestern part of the country near the Chinese border. This area is also another must see when in Vietnam. After an overnight train ride and a short bus ride I arrived in Sapa. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us. It was rainy and foggy for the first 3 days I was there. I was in a hotel called the Mountain View and I knew that there had to be a great view from the balcony but unfortunately I couldn't see beyond about 5 feet from window. The area is known for the ethnic minorities have lived in small villages all over the area. The villages have their distinctive dress and language and live amongst themselves.
The main group of people that are seen in the Sapa area are the Black H'mong and the Red Tzao who come to the market to sell their handicrafts and to sell their produce at the market. When anyone arrives in the town of Sapa they are immediately met by a group of the Black H'mong. They have distinctive dress and one of the first things you notice is their blue hands. Their dress is made of a cloth that is died using the indigo plant which turns their hands (and sometimes their faces too) a nice shade of blue.
I tried not to let the weather keep me from doing anything. My friend Leon and I met one of the local girls who spends her time guiding tours who offered to walk us down through her local village on her day off. The trip took about 5 hours and the scenery we could see when the clouds lifted was amazing. The locals have devised a system of terraces that they farm with their main crop being rice. These terraces go as far as the eyes can see throughout the mountain region.
The fog lifted for a short while to get some good views.
and more still
During the winter months when it is too cold to work in the fields the women all work on their handicrafts. They do some beautiful hand embroidered quilts, clothing, pillow cases, wall hangings, etc. This picture shows two Black H'mong girls sewing along the side of the mountain overlooking the river.
Cat Cat village
There is another village a little closer to town that I walked on the second day called Cat Cat. Once again you can see the terraced fields.
Bac Ha Market
On Sunday I signed up for a tour to take me to the Bac Ha market. This market is only on Sundays and is about a 3 hour drive away from Sapa. All the local villagers flock to this market to buy and sell and it has become a big tourist attraction. About 75% of the people who come to the market weekly are from the Flower H'mong group. They also have very distinctive dress.
Lonely Planet picture
I felt like I was a photographer for Lonely Planet when I was there. All the colorful outfits made for great picture taking.
Flower H'mong Village
After we visited the market we went to a village where the Flower H'mong live. We stopped in the house of one of the village families and got to see first hand how they live. The mother offered us some of her homemade hooch (rice wine) that will put hair on your chest!
Finally some good weather
I had plans to stay 3 days in Sapa but was unable to get a train out on Sunday night so I had to wait until Monday and I was so glad that I did. The clouds started to break in the morning and by about 10am it was absolutely breath taking and I could really see why the area is such a popular place. These are the view from my hotel (that I should have had the entire time!)
Leon and I say goodbye
Leon and I have been traveling together for over 2 weeks and is was sad to say goodbye. We spent the last afternoon hanging out in the hotel restaurant overlooking the mountains below.
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