Our train trip from Hanoi to Sa Pa was nice and relaxing as we had our own cabin which meant we had both of the bottom bunks which in turn meant I didn’t have to climb to the top bunk and hit my head several hundred times. After arriving in Loa Cai we got on a minibus for the drive to Sa Pa. We got the very back corner of the mini bus and after half an hour of polite small talk with a Dutch couple I had to bow my head and close my eyes before the winding roads got the better of me.
It was freezing outside. I could tell because it was snowing and because I couldn’t feel my feet as we walked the 1.5km to our hotel. Once we reached our hotel I was so happy because it looked so cute and so almost-European. I imagined that when I walked in I would be hit by the heat and I would be able to put my feet up to thaw and drink some tea while I finished re-reading The Kite Runner. I wasn’t hit with heat as I walked in the door. Instead I was hit with more cold and a bright round light. The hotel workers gave us some tea which was such a welcome relief as we waited the 4 hours until we got given a room. As we sat on a cold couch I worked out what the bright round light was. It was a heater (I later came to love those heaters) that reminded me of the heat lamp lights you can put in your bathroom that emit heat while on.
3.5 hours later (we got our room earlier…) we ran up the stairs to our room which I imagined would surely be warm. It wasn’t warm. It was just as cold as downstairs and I very quickly figured out that as lovely as the balcony would be in summer, it wasn’t so great when it was snowing and there was a 2cm gap between the bottom of the door and floor. I think this was the source of the cold.
I don’t do too well in the cold if I’m not prepared for it. I’ve learnt that some people can just adapt, they chuck on a beanie and are on their way. I’m not one of those people. I need thermals, thick socks, down jackets (yes I need 2), a beanie, gloves and snow boots. If I have all of this I will happily embrace the low temperatures. If I don’t, which I didn’t in Sa Pa, I will try to avoid the coldest temperatures as much as possible. We weren’t expecting such cold temperatures on this trip, we didn’t pack for them, but I get the impression a lot of people weren’t – we met a few people who had to go out and buy some warmer clothes just like we did. I’m not exactly sure why it was so cold but we saw on the news that Hong Kong experienced their coldest day in 60 days. There must have definitely been something in the wind…
Our first 2 days in Sa Pa were so uneventful I won’t say much more than we watched a lot of movies, waited out numerous power outages and occasionally ventured outside, mainly just to get food.
And on the third day the clouds opened up, the sun shone through, the ice melted and we left our hotel. It was beautiful outside and some people might say we didn’t embrace our first days there but I’m glad we didn’t try to do too much, we would have had foggy memories of sights we tried to see but couldn’t through all of the fog and clouds. Instead, on the third day we got a driver to take us up the mountain side where we then climbed up to the waterfalls and breathed in the fresh air and smelt the crispness of the greenery. I find water so fascinating and I especially love the sound of waterfalls. We stood for quite a while listening and watching the water cascade down and despite the loudness of the water it was peaceful.
On the way down from the waterfall we thought we would take the second path other than the one we used to get up there. After walking for a bit (I was leading at this stage and I kind of feel like this only happened because I was leading) we came to the end of the path, it didn’t just stop, we could see the path continue on up ahead but between us and the rest of the path were fallen trees and part of the river that was just there. We walked back up the path and across the river there was a local telling us we had to jump across. We know he was telling us to jump because he kept running and jumping on his side of the river and pointing. We gave him the thumbs up, smiled and nodded and he continued on his way. Mark found the point he thought would be best to cross at. Why didn’t we just turn around and walk back? Well where’s the fun in that? So we easily passed the middle of the river without getting wet and then there was a gap without anything for us to step onto. I thought we should just jump it but Mark kept telling me it wasn’t safe because it was so slippery and taking into account how clumsy I can be we shouldn’t risk it. I should have just jumped when I first thought of it because when Mark eventually jumped across I knew I could have easily made it. Before Mark and I were together I would have jumped without a second thought and so I was annoyed when he moved a wooden log for me so I could walk across. Next time I’ll show him that I can keep up with him.
I’m so glad we ended our stay in Sa Pa the way we did. Today was perfect and on the drive back to Loa Cai this afternoon I pictured just how beautiful the area would be in full bloom. Maybe one day I’ll see it for myself but at the moment we are sitting in a restaurant across from the train station waiting for yet another train, this time to take us to Hue, via a train change in Hanoi.
Much love, B xxx