20 February 2010

I Left My Heart In Sapa

It would be my second and final day in Sapa. I woke up and rushed up to the rooftop to see what I didn’t want to miss watching – the break of dawn. With the mountains stood out over the cotton white clouds, the view was simply majestic.

The view of the sun illuminating upon the wall of mountains was something that I’d never forget forever.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone.
I was happy because they could take this photo for me. I actually asked a couple or two of photos to be taken, but he just kept snapping pictures of me until I ran out of poses and smile.
Riding the bike down to the town center, I was glad I didn’t stay in an upscale hotel. Otherwise, I would have to keep up with Hmong ladies and children waiting for me on the front yard.
It would be the Lunar New Year in few days time so the Hmong men were busy putting up the ‘trees of luck’ on the roadside. In a place where everything seemed to be done by the ladies (selling stuffs and everything), I was glad I saw the men do at least something.
Recommended by the hotel owner, I went to this place for breakfast.
I should have come to this place right from the beginning. The noodle soup was deliciously good.
The secret lies beneath the sweet grilled meat.
I was lucky to be there on a Sunday when Sapa’s version of tamu in Sabah was taking place. It is the time when people from all the kampongs in every corner of Sapa come to trade a vast variety of things,
Or simply to mingle around with each other.
You see, you don't really need a room to run a barber shop.
So it is for a dental.
I was quite positive this was the thing that screwed up my lunch with its smothering aroma the day before.
As much as I had wanted to taste these, I had to refrain this time.
Not only because it was quite against my diet, but the lady didn’t seem to be happy to have me around. She was actually saying ‘go away! Go away!’ when I took this picture.
You see, some of Hmong people are just so camera-shy.
I had come to realize that most things in Sapa Market come in bundles. We start with the sugar canes.
Then their trade-mark black clothes.
And then noodles!
Getting out of the crowded streets of Sapa town, I began to ride downhill towards one of the most visited places in Sapa – the Cat Cat Waterfall. With the road still heavily under reconstruction and quite a number of sharp turnings, my riding skill was tested to the fullest.
You see, Sapa has its funny way of bringing some income to its people. They know for sure that you gotta go on a long zigzagging road before you can even reach the check-point.
You can’t bring you motorbike any further than the check-point. You have no choice but getting off the motorbike and having it parked for 1 dollar.
Then, you have to traverse down the walk path through the village.
This kid here kept following me while muttering something like ‘cuo chou sini..’. He wouldn’t stop until I gave him 2000 dongs.
Good thing is, despite the 40,000 dongs of entrance fee, they actually provide you with a tour guide.
The Hmong people seem to have their secret way of communicating with those ‘guides’. I was quite sure I heard this man talk to one of them.
They seem to get along very well that some of the Hmong kids don’t mind crawling with them! Hehe.
Further down the walk path is a Hmong Village. You have the choice of exploring some of their exhibits and handicrafts. Sensing that it was too commercialized, I decided to skip it. After all, it was a long way to go.
Cat Cat waterfall is said to be haunted by a lady dressed in floral red. She would only show herself to certain people with a pure and good heart. She has never known to have shown her face to anybody though. Oh well, true enough.
Kidding. She was just another tourist who was trying to get the best capture of her friend posing around a bundle of bamboo. You know you have reached the waterfall when you have to go across this bridge.
It was actually the dry season in Sapa when the waterfall wasn’t at its best look.
So was the river. It could have been more beautiful during a rainy season.
And I just love the toilet. It has one of those medieval looks.
Doing my business inside, I had to be prepared to whatever things that might come in through its gapping window.
Mind to tell you, the tour to Cat Cat Watefall is a one-round tour. It’s like making a full circle around and you wouldn’t get back to the entrance but coming out to a different exit.
My point is, make sure you don’t stop taking pictures or you might regret it later.
I was actually attracted to the term they use to describe the upper stream of the river – Fairy Stream.
But then, going to the Fairy Stream had proved to be not as fairy. It requires a long walk along the ridge of what seemed to be an edgeless foothill.
Despite all the physical trainings that I did prior to my trip to Vietnam, I still found myself stopping and gasping for breath every now and then.
Jeez. It really was a loooooooooooong walk. But then, I just allowed myself to be blown away by the beautiful scenery along the way.
Quite true to its name, Fairy Stream has a fairy gate to let you make a fairy entry.
Oh well, I had an intuition that the Fairy Stream could have been more fairy if I were there on a non-dry season. But still,
I had to brace against the idea of just taking all my clothes off and jumping right into its crystal blue water. It was just so tempting but no thanks. With the sweltering sun and all the body heat boiling inside me, I wasn’t prepared to get a heart attack in Vietnam.
Getting back to the water fall and later on to the exit, I had to be amused by how they force visitors to get on a bike to go back to Sapa town. You gotta bear in mind that they are not Hmong so they really know how to put the price at a ridiculous rate (I asked). They don’t even allow rented bikes to get any further than the check-point, leaving everybody with no choice but taking the bike.
Of course it works on many people especially getting back to Sapa town is soooooooooooo legs-breaking. If you think you have done marathons your entire life and that you can always say ‘FUCK OFF NO THANKS’ to the bikers, think again.
Refusing to be victimized, I chose to walk at least to my rented bike. After all, I am not that old. LOL!
While I was struggling not to pass out in my uphill trekking, this little kid gave me her best sarcastic smile.
Thank you! I couldn’t help but noticing an eye-catching building nestled perfectly on top of a mound hill when I was on my way down to Cat Cat Waterfall.
Upon a closer look, it had seemed to me as some kind of a hotel but it was still under construction. Blame it on my curiosity; I actually took the risk of doing a little bit of detour up to the building.
And it was worth every bit of the risk. I mean, you gotta be crazy enough to get something like this right down your nose.
And to get something like this.
And this.

And this.
Ok. I'm not that brave then. I am a human being. Of course I'm afraid of death. Hehe.I wondered how many of the people in those buildings had actually called me NUTS or CRAZY or even STUPID for doing those deadly poses out in the open. LOL!
But then, why should I care? I was having a good time.
Holla! Hehe. Back in the Sapa town later, I returned to the same restaurant that I went for breakfast earlier and was served this for lunch.
For a moment I kinda froze because I couldn’t figure out what to do. I had to be guided by a group of Australian teenagers whom I shared the same table with. It turned out to be a simple dip-and-eat task. The grilled meat is the clincher. The process of grilling it is very much like our satay here in Malaysia.
I spent the last remaining hours of my trip in Sapa by touring some eye-popping shops. I mean, EYE-POPPING.
They don’t eat worms, they DRINK ‘em.
It was just fascinating to see what the hell ever crawling creatures they put inside their wine. I wonder how it would feel to have those creatures down my throat.
And Sapa or Vietnam in general just loves herbal ingredients. Most of them were just so unfamiliar to me.
After last night’s encounter with the super-strong rice wine, the sight of it in a vast quantity was building a gale inside my throat.
Then I returned to Sapa Open Market to do a little bit of shopping. Mind to tell you, shopping in Sapa is much better than in Hanoi. It’s worth to spend a little bit of time bargaining here because they don’t have the mindset of sucking your wallet dry like most Hanoians do.
I noticed some of the things that I didn’t realize before. Like, how some of things were just out of place.
I mean, what the hell is this thing doing here?
Dspite my excessive collection of bags back at home, I bought this bag for RM18. And it’s HAND-KNITTED!
Then I had to buy this postcard from this Hmong lady here for my fellow blogger Ulai. She has the strongest legs so ready to kick me in the ass if I didn’t. LOL!
I had to get back to the hotel to pack up. It was time to let go of the bike. I couldn’t help but noticing the fuel meter. I had covered like hundreds of kilometers around Sapa and I didn’t even use up half of it. I wondered what kind of fuel they use there. Seriously, so jimat one!
They hotel owner was so kind to send me down to the town on his bike where a mini bus would take me off to the train station. When it was time to go, I couldn’t help but feeling a little dreary. Somehow, it was quite painful having to leave Sapa when I had only been there for two days.
Sapa for me is every inch worth to both explore and experience. The cultures and the views and the people, everything about Sapa is just so beautiful. I left Sapa with a heavy heart.
Reaching Lao Cai Train station quite too early, I had to wait for at least another hour before I was allowed to go on the train.
I shared a cabin room with a super jiwang Vietnamese guy whose night-long lovey-dovey conversation was making me wanna puke at times. But then, what do you expect from a guy who has this for a hand-bag?
Reaching Hanoi in the wee hours of the next morning, I returned to Camelia Hotel where I’d be picked up by a mini bus to what would be my very last destination in Vietnam – the one and only........ Halong Bay!!!!


kenwooi said...

the lifestyle there is definitely interesting, way different from malaysia.. and the bottle of worms.. ewww.. i wont drink it! =P


JIPP said...

I've always considered myself an exotic enthusiast but those worms in the bottle were just so ewwww.hehe.

ULAI said...

yay! thank you so much for the postcards. already stick them on my bedroom's wall, beside my world map. seeing your pictures, hearing your stories makes me dream to go there someday and use my 'strongest legs' to explore those sapa's lovely mountains, hills, valley, etc...keep on dreaming ulai! hehe!

JIPP said...

why dream? go for it. can bahh.. it's all about you wanna do it or not.. :-)

CathJ said...

Looks like tokek oh the animals inside bottles.. :p


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