So after the traumas of Ha Long to Hanoi traffic and missed night buses, and the incredible helpfulness of the Flipside Hostel staff, I was on a bus to Sapa. Being that my time was limited I booked two days of trekking and a homestay through the hostel, so as to save time on organising activities once I arrived. This meant that life was pretty easy for a couple of days as I travelled with just a small day pack and let the guides do all the thinking.
My first surprise was my trekking guide, a tiny little H’Mong lady who was waiting for me in the bus station in Sapa. In the hill tribe villages women run the households, control the finances and are also more educated than the men, speaking more English, so are generally the main guides as well. I hadn’t put that together in my mind before arriving, but was delighted to hear that I would be spending the afternoon with her and her friends walking back to their village, along with a group of 9 other trekkers.
The weather stayed reasonable for me and I was relieved not to have rain (mostly because my lack of coordination combined with mud would certainly lead to some slips). We walked from Sapa town for several kilometres out to the villages in the valley. There are no words to describe the scenery in Sapa as it really is beyond anything else you can imagine, with huge mountains, rice terraces, local hilltribe villages, buffalo, pigs, ducks, chickens and more. I was blown away and meandered happily through the fields snapping photos and just soaking it in.
We arrived at the homestay around 6pm after 4hours of walking and settled into a huge local feast. I was surprised by how many guests there were but enjoyed chatting with the other travellers over a shot of rice whiskey before an early bed time.
Day 2 was a longer hike of around 12km and for this one we were accompanied by guides from the Zao tribe. Less than 30 minutes in Zo, our lead guide, offered us an easy or a hard route and we unanimously opted for the difficult walk, heading up the mountain for more incredible views. Accomplishing this with minimal trouble was a sweet reminder that “you are stronger than you think” and to always give things a go, no regrets! We finished up at a waterfall before heading for some steamy bowls of Pho and back to town.
Sapa stole my heart completely with its scenery and culture and I am so delighted that I ended my time in Vietnam with this incredible experience. With aching legs I boarded the bus back to Hanoi and felt pure happiness that I had gotten such a great experience, challenged myself and proven my capabilities in another environment.