Vietnam was never on my to-travel-to list. Two friends encouraged me to go there. Off to Vietnam, then.
Sa Pa was the third stop for us after Hanoi and Halong Bay. Reaching it was not easy; a night 9-hour sleeping train from Hanoi. But honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I expected it would be. We arrive at the train station a little after dawn. Taking another transportation for 45 minutes to go up the mountain where Sa Pa is. Although it was foggy but still I enjoyed the ride.
The hotel was a beautiful, rustic place and our room had a big window overlooking the mountain. Samar, my friend, always pampered me by letting me choose which bed I would like. And I chose the one next to the big window J
We rested for a couple of hours then got ready to explore the city. First, we headed to a nearby cafe to have our addictive daily dose of the strong Vietnamese coffee. The “Cafe in the Clouds” was its name. It is rightly named for the view from it, specially from the roof, was stunning!
Fog and mist put me in this nostalgic mood where I miss him… or rather the notion of him. I miss having a partner the most in winter. When it is really cold. When it rains. Some birds are never to nest into a mate. They are to wander forever till their wings fall off and they drop on the ground for one last breath before they rest for good. I swallow the longing and enjoy the aromatic coffee and the mist.
God bless GPS! We follow the route to the lake passing by the colourful shops in the relatively narrow, winding streets. Some local ladies and children follow us with handmade goods. We smile and gently say: “no, thanks. Not today.” But one of them insists on giving each one of us a gift. I wear it for the rest of the trip.
The lake was absolutely beautiful with the French architecture houses images reflected on its surface. It is surrounded with lots of flower formations with lovely colours. We spend a good half an hour snapping photos before relaxing by the lake enjoying the view.
Locals in Sa Pa look a bit different than the rest of the Vietnamese population. I think this is because the city is on the borders with China. Even the handmade goods are different in material and designs.
There is something special about Sa Pa; the streets with its short houses and buildings, the facades with all kinds of plants and flowers. Wherever I looked, I saw the green mountains in the background, with slowly moving fogs… luring me into joining them… getting lost there. But I get back to my senses and I motionlessly keep watching the horizon.
It was a long day, we return to the hotel for some rest. Samar prefers to linger there but I feel restless; I want to explore the city by night. So, I head out again. The Chinese lanterns give such a magical yet intimate feeling to the buildings. I keep walking but my eyes check the GPS every now and then to ensure I am not lost. That childish panic of getting lost!
When I feel exhausted, I decide I’d head back to the hotel and stop by one of the restaurants for diner. The winding road up to our hotel was full of goodies.
The following two days are dedicated to trekking. The local guide would meet us in the hotel at 9:30. AM. We wake up early for breakfast in the hotel. I head for the “Cafe in the Clouds” for one final cup of coffee there.
Sue, our guide, arrives on time. Then starts a route to remember.
To be continued…