I’m having trouble downloading photos and videos, so I’m going to journal on this blog, and then go back later and add the other media when I have a stronger connection. Might as well get everything down as quickly as I can while it’s still fresh in my mind — but keep checking back for updated photos and vids!
After getting the most out of our last day in Hanoi, we took an overnight train to Sapa, the mountain region in the north. We got a ride to the train with 2 Canadian sisters of Vietnamese descent — Kelly and Gwen, and Gwen’s husband Andrew. Then we got on our train. It’s a sleeping train with 2 bunk beds in each train cabin, called the “Pumpkin Express” but Melissa warned us that she and Jen jokingly liked to call it the “Aushwitz Express.”
Tammy hates that joke.
It really wasn’t THAT bad though, but a little bit of a rough ride. There were a lot of travelers from all over the world on our train, especially Australia, but we were just too tired to hang out. We did see they had a karaoke car in the front, but sleep was calling.
The train was kind of bumpy to the point that I felt like we were going to veer off the tracks at any moment. The three of us were in a cabin with a young woman named “Gum” who was Vietnamese. We turned off the lights and I pulled out my ipod to watch a bit of a movie before the lull of the bumpy tracks rocked me to sleep.
Next thing I know, we were woken up by the call of the conductor banging on the door and telling everyone to wake up in Veitnamese. We got to the train station and waited. And waited. And waited. There were guides with signs on them, but none of our names were on any of the signs. The next train came in and we recognized Gwen, Kelly and Andrew, so we went with them. Then we realized that our name WAS on one of the tour guide’s list — we had been booked as “Jennifer” because apparently the guys from our Hanoi hotel couldn’t tell us five girls apart and they they thought I was Jennifer, who had left with Melissa the day before. So now, we were “group Jennifer.”
Gwen, Kelly and Andrew got in the van next to us and we hopped in a van with our new best friends — 2 girls and 2 guys from Barcelona, a Brit named Paul and another Brit named Pav. Pav, we learned, had recently broken up with his girlfriend and needed to “get away” so he was exploring SE Asia on his own and was planning on spending 8 days in Sapa and some even more rural regions further north.
Then it was time for a crazy drive to Sapa.
Being a car passenger in this country is a little scary, expecially when you’re driving up a narrow mountain. However, there were four guides in the car with us all sitting up front who didn’t seem worried at all, as they listend to spanish techno music, rode right down the center line on the road and tried to avoid hitting the motor bikes on either side of them.
Trying not to pay attention to our proximity to the cliffs, I concentrated on the incredible view. It took us about an hour to wind up the mountain, through the clouds and greenery until we got to our hotel.
There, we met up with Kelly, Gwen, Andrew and Paul. We were shown are rooms, which are surprisingly nice and roomy. Our room has three separate sort of large beds in it. It’s a little cold, though. Had a breakfast of chocolate banana pancake wich was really a crepe and met our tour coordinator David who told us our itinerary. Well, we’re off to do a little hiking in about a half hour. It’s only 9am, but it feels like much, much later in the day. I’m surprisingly not too tired and ready to explore!