Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Sapa Day 2 19th February 2012

Still foggy, wet and cold..

Still foggy, wet and freezing cold. Fog isn't as thick, but the drizzle comes and go's . In search of sustenance and eventually find a place serving up soup. It's a locals place, only costs 30,000 vnd for a good bowl of piping hot chicken soup, crammed with noodles. No attempt to keep in the heat, or rather the cold out though.Hardy people, these locals. Further along, opposite the park is a coffee shop where the staff are huddled over some hot charcoals. I join them whilst waiting for my thimble of coffee. They are happy to give me more water and a bigger glass which also served as a ploy to stay huddled over the heat and making the drink last as long as possible.

There isn't much to see, even as the fog thins out a little, no panoramic vistas. The folkes at the hotel suggest going to cat cat, a village of ethnic minorities. Drizzle lets up a bit so might as well. It's a 2km hike according to the sign post. Picked up a type of pasty, coconut bread and a kind of vegetable spring roll on the way all for 20,000 vnd. Quite tasty munching these along the way. It's muddy, wet and cold, but the hiking seems to have at least warmed my toes a bit, should have bought some hiking boots though, hope my thin little trainers last out!

Entrance to cat cat village costs 30,000 vnd, about £1 for tourists. A tourist set up obviously, but at least it's a glimpse into an ethnic hill tribe community. Heading down a hillside on a shallow path and numerous bamboo stalls selling exactly the same products as their neighbour. The dialogue is also exactly the same as each tourist passes the displays of leather wallets, bracelets, t-shirts etc. Some local leaf art is on display along with farming artefacts from times past.

About a dozen dwellings constructed mostly of timber, some bamboo and tarpaulin shacks all with corrugated asbestos roofing. The descent continues through terraced fields, muddy and waterlogged, with any prospect of panoramic views obscured by the miserable weather. The path steepens and heads down into a valley. Over a swaying bridge at the bottom crossing what looks like to be a river, except it's just a trickle between some large rocks. Further along and there is quite a nice waterfall, not victoria falls but still worthy of a photo. The drizzle turns into steady rain so I duck I to rather large timber hall. It's a theatre of sorts, with half a dozen people dancing. Presumably, a traditional dance by locals, quite lively and for free. Actually, a good 20 minutes of Vietnamese tradition according to an audio playing between each of the routines.

Stepping out of the theatre and grounds for optimism. The rain has stopped with clouds lifting enough to see the top of the valley. Looks like Sapa is sitting just into the base of a stratus cloud layer, and descending into the valley a few hundred feet also means the cloud generally stays above. Some nice contrasts for photographers with lush greenery, a sparkling waterfall with some obscured distant scenery.

Climbing back up the valley and soon into the dense, damp grey cloud layer that has dogged this visit so far. Back up the path, towards the town, passing the same bamboo stalls, selling the same stuff and again the same dialogue from stall holders as just about an hour ago. An interesting couple of hours, shame about the weather, and since it's winter I don't suppose much farming would have been going on anyway. Spotted a few chickens running around and a couple of buffaloes grazing, and of course numerous dogs about the place - pets or food, I have to wonder! Food is a good idea, then hotel and that nice thick duvet.

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