Now, we are stepping into the third day of the journey in Vietnam.
We are still at Sapa, the city covered by mist and embraced by mountain and that we also feel being hugged by the mist. A day of yesterday already gave us simple happiness and a day from today, I hope that our journey will give us happier time.
Ok, let's journey together for our last episode of the trip, Sapa, where I fall in love with 'mountain'!
If someone asked me how I feel of traveling so far......to here? Even with just mountains and light mist and some cold, I can say that I'm already happy and satisfy above expectation level.
The journey that is started from following inspiration not only makes me realize my dream trip and that I can see what was shown on the tourist magazine five years ago, but it actually takes me to Sapa, the city that is still charming and makes me realize that... the pictures that I used to see were not even a segment of what I see with my own eyes. If I used to love Sapa from the picture that day, today, I have madly fallen in love with 'mountain' even more.
:: Vietnam Trip 10-14 Sep 2015 ::
Day 1 Ha Noi Ha Noi, (GA Ha Noi to Ga Lao Cai)
Day 2 Sapa Lao Cai to Sapa, Sapa
Day 3 Sapa Sapa, (Ga Lao Cai to Ga Ha Noi)
Day 4 Ha Noi Ha Noi
Day 5 Ha Noi Back to Bangkok
:: 12 Sep 2015
At 05:39 a.m., it is a very early morning. I have a very good sleep, but suddenly I jump out of my soft king-size bed and thinking that why bother to sleep longer? I grab the watch to make sure what time is it as the outside, the side towards Muong Hoa Vally is already light. May be, this is the morning already for people around here.
The atmosphere outside is a white mist floating all around, moving at all time. It is blown to cover trees and mountains, wrapping up the whole scene in white.
Sapa, Eden in the Mist
...Just a morning visit, this place is already turned into a heaven in mist.
Overlooking to the
Muong Hoa Valley off to the left from the corner of the dining room, this is one of my favorite corners. I jump to stay by the window. Now, the scene turns into soft blue and grey, the light mist of yesterday turns into a dense one and running around. It covers everything that it makes us feel cool although we have yet touched the atmosphere. The same atmosphere also.....invites us just to sit and enjoy...for some long minutes.
Right there....I'm thinking that.. this very same corner that I also took some photographs yesterday is drastically different today. For me, this is a matter of [looking from different angle] , different people and different perspective. If we were to put different people to the same corner, they are looking through different lens, the scene they got also will be different.
If someone shows you their perspectives and telling you that the places that you want to go has nothing interesting, please go to see it for yourself because their angles differ from us. Not beautiful for them might be the most like of ours.
:: The Scene at 05:39 a.m.
:: The Scene at 05:48 a.m.
:: The Scene at 05:50 a.m.
:: The Scene at 06:18 a.m.
:: The Scene at 06:22 a.m.
If we were to do a stopwatch minute by minute, the scene recorded will clearly shows the journey of the mist that is floating around. Some minutes, it seems to loosen their density, enough for us to see the orange brick dome building in a far distance. I'm not sure whether to say that the sky is clearer as it turns grey the next minutes and shows us the same old scene once again.
When the mist seems not to hurry anywhere, we also spend quite sometime with it before going for a breakfast at the fourth floor of the hotel. We choose different breakfast today. We taste what we didn't have yesterday but the coffee stays the same. Today there's a new set of tourists coming since the morning (all are foreigners). They might have been like us yesterday when we first got here, they were coming up for breakfast while waiting for checking in. So today all tables are full.
The food seems to get less attention when the scene from the balcony is full with mist. If you like the first day view of Muong Hoa Valley, you will like the mountain view covering with mist....even more. Between breakfast, I find the location for Go Pro camera to capture this morning mist in a Timelaps for an hour (Video Output for half an hour). So then we got the mist view from 'their home' back to see at 'our home' like this.
Click here for the video Eden in the Mist
:: The Scene at 06:24 a.m.
:: The Scene at 06:37 a.m.
The sky that I thought would open after white mist disappearing from the mountain or from the houses situated above Sapa Eden Hotel, but that's not the case. Almost 7 a.m., the mist float to the front of us, swallowing everything away.
Probably, this is what they said, you can't predict the weather here. One minute it's hot, the next minute it's cold and the mist will just visit. Think about it, did I meet all the weather here yet? The answer is....not yet. I've yet experienced 'rain' at Sapa, not even a single drop.
The climate of norther
Vietnam consists of four seasons: Spring (March - April), Summer (May - August), Autumn (September -. November) and Winter (December - February). The month we visit Sapa this time is the peak season as the weather is cool with some rain. So we get a chance to see the greeny rice field terrace, the products of the locals here.
:: The Scene at 06:53 a.m.
Let's flashback to last night a bit. After we were back from the Square, we started to pack stuff as we will have to check out at 11.00 a.m. tomorrow. Our original plan was that we would check out and leave our bags at Sapa Eden Hotel counter and we would walk around and had the pick up car take us to Lao Cai Train station about 19.00 p.m. In fact, this is several hours before we actually leave.
Most of tourists then book the hotel for only one night for a two days trip in Sapa. But since we have a senior travelling with us and won't be able to walk all day long so we were thinking to book a room until the evening. So last night, we checked with the hotel and found out that the hotel was fully booked as it's the high tourist season as mentioned earlier.
So then, about 20.00 p.m., I had to be the brave one, going out in the cold to search for a hotel. This also gave me a chance to explore more. Most of hotels were fully booked and also they were cheaper than Sapa Eden Hotel. Some hotels offer less than 1,000 THB per night but the conditions and cleanliness are also comparatively less.
Many hotels have the same condition, which is...regardless of how tall the buildings are, they are no lift and with no air-conditioning. Only medium to high prices hotels would have air-conditioning and beautiful views. This is all up to personal preferences. After walking for a while, we got a place at Cosiana Hotel Sapa, which is about 300 meters away from Sapa Eden Hotel.
Sapa Eden Hotel offers Family Suit at 2,194 THB for 3 people stay (additional person is 337 THB). If we were coming back to Sapa, we definitely are going to stay here.
P.S. Cosiana Hotel Sapa offers Family Suit at 1,600 THB for 4 people (very valuable price). The pros is....the view at the window is very beautiful, the cons is.....it happens that water in our room is not running.
P.S. For some people, to open another room may not be worthy as you will only use room for several hours. But we need it for our elderly to take rest and take a shower before heading to the train in which I think is worthy.
And since we already in the cold and walk for sometimes, we might as well just sit for some warm drink in front of the hotel. We got to know Vietnamese beer of Ha Noi and Lao Cai as well as tried French Fried, oily deep fried big slices of sweet potatoes. We also had fruit salad with ice in the cold wind and low temperature. Actually, we were shaking while enjoying this snack.
:: Check Out from Sapa Eden Hotel at about 10.00 a.m. and we finally get to closely meet with 'rain'.
The lobby is filled with guests who are checking out but cannot go out as well as the new guests who are waiting for checking in and the trekking groups who are hiding for the rain and waiting for their tour guide. Well, I also didn't think that rains will continue this long until it goes into the second hours.
The first fifteen minutes, we asked the staff how long the rain will last? She smiled and said...it's ordinary thing here, the rain will stop and rain again and she expected it to stop soon.
Well....the rains started to rain harder, from light drop to the heavy drops, so we cannot go anywhere. This area becomes a sitting, sleeping, luggage leaving place and most of people are playing with their phones. One nap after the other, there's no sign that 'rain' will farewell us soon. So as soon as the rain starts to slowdown at noon, we borrow the hotel's umbrella and go to Cosiana hotel right away.
For the travelers, we can say that....rain is not our favorite. It wastes our time and there's the risk that our camera might get humid and the photos taken are not beautiful.....in fact, many dislikes.
But here, rain seems to be the close friend, a familiar friend that goes in and out of Sapa without tiring. May be after the rain, the sky is clear and moisture drops are left at flowers and fresh greeny rice field terrace. The abundance land that we see it as beauty and the color that is so appealing to us probably is created....by this close friend.
We start to walk, in fact! I would call it running through the rain to
Cosiana Hotel Sapa.
Last night, we already paid deposit with dong currency (VND). Before we paid, we calculated of whether paying with VND or USD would be cheaper as the rate is varied from places to places. The staff here do not speak fluent English. We have to talk on the phone with another person. And to prevent the miscommunication, we asked for the receipt for both deposit and full payment.
:: Cosiana Hotel Sapa
I think it's a similar level hotel to Sapa Eden Hotel. It offers more rooms and fully equipped with furniture like TV, closet, two king-size beds and a set of coffee table at the end of the bed with four packs of tea and coffee. It also has air-conditioner (but it's not cold). The bathroom doesn't separate wet and dry zone. Overall, it's in good condition. But when we go to enjoy the view at the balcony, I must say this is their highlight.
The hotel is located on a small road with a terrace close to the other side of mountains. It is closed to downtown Sapa so we see houses and hotels situated in a layer. From my angle, it's a wide corner overseeing high mountains whom just say goodbye to the rain. The fresh green is in contrast with dense buildings. In far distance is a mist floating above the air. It has not gone away after rain, I guess it's due to the pressure after rain so the mist is floating around all day long.
.... Looking around, Sapa is not dry. Houses and hotels are hanging flower pots to freshen up the city. Flowers and tress are beautiful and colorful. They can grow out of the ground, bricks or even from the residential walls.
We quickly go through breakfast as our attention is mostly paid to the mist. After putting our luggage at Cosiana Hotel Sapa and enjoying the shots with the new angle for a while, we started to feel hungry again!!!
About 14.00 p.m. and we are out searching for something to eat. This restaurant is the one we plan to go according to the review praising their great taste and amazing view that we must go try it out.
:: Nature View Restaurant
It is only a few blocks further from Cosiana Hotel Sapa. We just walk up the hill for a bit and the restaurant is located on the right hand side, the same side with the hotel. It is a two-story restaurants. Most of tourists sit at the first floor next to the windows. This is a very good angle with some beer so it is fully occupied. We then have to go upstairs.
There's quite a variety of menus here. We order soft pizza, cherry duck hot plate, beef hot plate, shrimp fired rice (the first meal of shrimp) and what must not miss is fried spring rolls. The hot plate menus go so well with hot plain rice. I must say that this review is quite great... when coming to Sapa...let's not miss this out.
P.S. These menus were recommended by the staff and all are delicious. Staff can speak English fluently and very smiley. The price is not as expensive as I expected. In coupled with this great view that make us enjoy food so much, it's so worthy.
...We are full now!!!
The plan of today, no matter where we go, it's all about walking. So we follow the Trekking group who has a Hmong girl as a personal guide. With the time we have left, we decide to visit Cat Cat Village. It is a small village that is on a travel list of every agent here. This place should be a perfect place to go with the time we have.
...From the restaurant, we buy some raincoat just in case for 40,000 VND each. Now, we are ready and it's already 15.00 p.m. so we start our journey to Cat Cat Village right away. It's on the way to Sapa Eden Hotel, so we return umbrella that we borrowed earlier. Then, we also walk pass beer shop last night. Well, we actually didn't know the way, just keep walking. But we won't get lost as well since there's only one way.
On the way, we go pass houses, small farms of the locals. A few centimeters away from the main road, hotels, small hostels are opened and some are under construction. On the right hand side is a tall wall and on top of that is the frequently reviewed hotel like Sapa Summit Hotel, a famous hotel for its beautiful mountain location.
:: Cat Cat Village
We walk just enough to get tired a bit but not so exhausted, it is probably because we enjoyed the view along the way. The mountains, rice field terrace and the clear sky awakening from mist accompanied us. We were also fortunate to have cold wind as a friend from time to time. When we walk half way, there're coffee shops and souvenir shops and you are most welcomed to take some rest while enjoying the view if you feel tired.
The route to Cat Cat Village is a slope down to the regular walkway. The destination is the houses of villagers. I heard there's also hotel available in the village and while we were walking, we also saw the tourists on the pick up car to the hotel in Cat Cat Village.
From the terrace of the restaurant of Sapa Eden Hotel, we see the yellowish building on the far distance and we yet know what building that is but we have a question of whether we can walk there? When we decided to walk to Cat Cat Village, we found out that....that building is located on this route. Then we plan it for our destination and let's see if we can reach our 'destination'?
Ok! Let's go together :)
:: Almost 3 kilometers, and we realize that our destination is Coffee View & Bar. It is situated at the top of the hill, in the middle of endless rice field terrace and embraced by the so tall mountains that we could only saw from afar yesterday. In addition to embracing the Cat Cat Village, now the 'mountain' also embrace us.
From Coffee View & Bar, it is the sharp curve road towards the village with a clear sign of Cat Cat Village. There's also admission fees to enter the village.
At the entrance to the village, we see many small houses and rice field terrace that are proportionally situated, giving us such a memorable view. With a limited time, we keep pressing the shutter and we didn't make it to the inside. If I have a chance to visit again, I will definitely not going to stop just here, but to go inside the village and beyond to other villages where only trekking will take us to.
...Farewell time.... When it's about 17.00 p.m., it's time to go back. And the way back is not the same as the coming way as we will need to walk uphill. The cold wind still blows to our faces, freshen us up a bit but it's a lot more tired than before. Now, the stomach feels empty... well...I don't know when pizza and duck has disappeared on us...
:: The way back for 3 kilometers
It starts from tiring and goes onto starving. We stopped by a shop to get soft drinks, yogurt, and Else bread for the train time.
The minivan that we have contacted with Sapa Eden Hotel comes pick us up from our hotel at 19.00 p.m. It is a private rental car for 30 USD. The driver speaks no English. He drives us out of the accommodation zone through the traffic in a narrow road and tourists that are walking around. When seeing somebody else walking in Sapa, it makes me doesn't want to leave yet. I only can.....watch them walk and enjoy the night for us.
....I guess it's time to say goodbye to Sapa here....
:: Sapa- Lao Cai Route
The minivan drives fast in a similar speed of when we came. It might have been because of their expertise in driving uphill. The only difference is that we can no longer see the view along the way but only the sounds of honking and high light when the car drive pass us.
An hour later, the driver takes us to GA Lao Cai (Lao Cai Train Station) except that the car didn't park near the entrance of the station like it should be. I was kind of wonder when a lady came waiting for us. She speaks little English and asks us about our train ticket.
The staff at Prince II in Hanoi has arranged for our ticket but we will get our actual return ticket at the Agent. So the paper in our hand is just the document telling our train number and telephone number and I'm not sure if this lady is the Agent. She takes our document and says she will arrange it and speaks in Vietnamese with the driver. I feel something is not right so I take the paper back and goes inside the station and call to this number. And soon, the Agent, a polite dress lady shows up and identifies herself before handing the train ticket to us.
I'm thinking if the first lady would have arranged it, she would have called to the Agent and asked for some fee. This may not be cheating thing but it's the way of making money for them. We just need to be cautious and think ahead of them.
:: VN Train : Sapa - Lao Cai
The train looking just like the one we came park there and will leave from Lao Cai to Hanoi Station at 21.10 p.m.
From the previous experience on the train, we could easily find our train. We just walk long along the railway. I see that there's also other type of train coming to Sapa. Some are better than VN Train but the price might have been higher also. From what I see... the coach is in a similar size but the lamp and the bed is in a better condition and cleaner. And another type is for sitting, it's like our train in Thailand and most of the passengers are Vietnamese.
Tonight, we are staying at the cleaner coach than when we came and the air is also cooler. Everything else is the same. When the seller knocks on our door, we buy some of their instant noodle. We just choose from the look of packaging (16,000 VND each cup). I'm not sure if that's chicken flavor. Then we asked for hot water on the train. Instant noodle is not so rich and when boiling with not so hot water, it becomes half cooked noodle. Is it delicious?....don't ask me.
:: 13 Sep 2015
:: GA Ha Noi
Now we are back to Hanoi Train Station again. From 5.30 a.m. the day is already light. We walk out of the station to see many taxis are parking there with a staff asking passengers of where they want to go. We take the green-white taxi like we were recommended. We show our map and tell the driver of our hotel. We agree to pay 4 USD for the fare, just to be sure.
P.S. The drivers dress very polite and some don't speak English so we have to make clear of everything before taking it. The map is very helpful so that we don't have to drive around to find the place.
P.S. We book Prince II hotel for one day at the price of 600 THB. We stay only a night in Hanoi before flying back to Thailand tomorrow early flight.
P.S. In case we need to withdraw more money, I try with HSBC ATM as it's close to our hotel. Money in our account will be shown in dong (VND), so don't get confused if it shows up in millions. Before withdrawing, we can convert THB to VND and withdraw accordingly. I think other banks ATM can also use, you can try it out.
We arrive Prince II hotel before 6 a.m. so the hotel still closes. Locals help us knock the door to wake the staff up as there's a man staff sleeping there. He woke up from his folded bed and opened the door for us so we can leave our luggage and go out to enjoy the morning breath here. The alleys are yet so busy. Some shops are still setting up. People wake up early to exercise while some are out for some hot food. 'Fer', the noodle soup seems to be the most popular one. Today we will try international Vietnamese food.
:: King Cafe' Restaurant
It offers American Breakfast with a mild taste but the coffee is quite strong. We try lemon pancake. It is a thin yellow pancake. How to eat... we need to squeeze lemon and sprinkle sugar on top, this dish is quite delicious.
The atmosphere inside the restaurant is quite unique with signatures from tourists who have stopped by. This gives us some sort of international feeling.
The small restaurant like King Cafe' makes us realize that Hanoi local people also need to adapt to the prosperity knocking on their door. Looking carefully, the inside is a bedroom, behind that is a kitchen. The accommodation now is adapted for shop. In the morning, they offer food while afternoon and evening, it is a place for sipping beer.
:: Life ... in Vietnam
The change has come to every place, including our country. Way of life, eating habits or the way of making living has been adapted to suit the time harmoniously. Vietnam also must have gone through several changed from the past to the present. The prosperity may have changed something totally while some are still left with its full charm and unchangeable.
Morning like this, we see people are out for making a living. This tells us that 'Hanoi' wakes up already. The elders are gathering at the corner of the road, chitchatting with smiles on their faces. Shops start to open even the owner is still chopping vegetables in front of the shop. The smoke makes us mouthwatering even we already had breakfast. Well, in fact, while some corner is very chaos, the other part is moving slowly. People are doing what they are supposed to do. Some are walking, some are sitting, some are exercising, and some are sipping coffee and making conversation in no hurry.
Well, is that what they called Slow Life in Vietnam?
Before we can check in, it would have been late morning. So we take this opportunity to explore alleys of Hang Giay to see way of life....in Vietnam while we are waiting. We are wandering without boring as along the way they are all shops. We use GPS to find Dong Xuan Market to buy some souvenir. On the way, we walk passed several coffee shops. The interesting about them is that they have a small set of table and chair to enjoy coffee time in front of the shop.
:: Coffee Mission
If we didn't try coffee, it's like we have yet reached Vietnam. So from the way back from Dong Xuan Market, we stop at one shop.
After trying coffee in every restaurants that we are stopping for food, at the hotel, on the train, or the brewed coffee of King Cafe', we still can't help but get some coffee beans home. The special thing is that whatever kind of coffee beans that you are interested in, they would brew for you to taste right away. The recommended coffee is made from weasel.
That's right, it's weasel. It might have been similar to coffee made from musk or elephant's shit. As soon as we heard the name, we search for it. It looks just like the graphic photo showing in front of the shop.
The coffee that I like after tasting is from Highland which is hot brewed with some sugar. That day, we tried many and before we can't sleep, we order some packs home to Thailand as well as the instant coffee, G7 brand in which is also available in Thailand now.
The packaging is also quite interesting. We choose either roasted or beans and they will put it as much as we want, put it in a pack and seal it before labeling it up. Just this, we got our souvenir home.
We have more strength to walk on due to the coffee. We continue walking, going pass the roundabout and through Hoan Kiem Lake towards Phuong Hang Trong which have shops all along the way. Our destination is ST.Joseph's Cathedral, the old and famous church of Hanoi.
And the last stop that will make our Coffee Mission Completed is to have a coffee time at Highland Coffee Cafe', a place that is popular for its taste and its view when looking down. I really like Iced Caramel Machiato. It is strong and mellow. It is 59,000 VND per glass, the price is similar to ours.
:: Night Life in Ha Noi
In addition to secretly give Hanoi a title of ' Hanoi, the Chaotic Culture...', today we will also give Hanoi a title of beautiful nightlight.
At night, 'Hanoi' is back on life. It's like this is the 'charm.. that will never sleep of Vietnam'.
Our last night in Ha Noi and our last dinner here. We choose the restaurant that is located near Hoan Kiem Lake. The highlight is the dinner atmosphere among the night light and light reflecting on the river. The food is also looking good, the taste is good. When looking around, people are appreciating the atmosphere while sipping beer. Just like this, it is another simple happiness.
:: 14 Sep 2015
We will travel early tomorrow morning. We booked the taxi via the hotel to pick us up at 5 a.m. to Noi Bai Airport. We will fly back to Thailand with the same airline in which will depart at 9.00 a.m. I guess we need to say goodbye since tonight with the scene that no matter when I look at it, I can clearly see Ha Noi......
In a short time in Vietnam for 5 days and 4 nights trip, it is more than a journey to a place. It's more fun than just travel. It's more than changing places, changing people whom we walk pass by or changing the language. No, it's more than that. It's where we find our 'destination' that gives me the 'experiences' that I will never forget.
Thank you very much... for traveling together :)
For previous episode, please chick here
Vietnam Trip : Ha Noi - Sapa ตอน 2
Thank you so much for stopping by and please also follow the next journey.
:: If you also like to travel, please stop by to chat and share the travel story at my page MINDJourney :)
GOOD BYE , VIETNAM