It is such a nice treat to have a few rainy days. There’s no heat in our place so it only makes sense to avoid the 11 degree weather (very cold for us!) and stay wrapped up in blankets on our wonderfully heated bed.
We made it to Sapa, one of the most northern towns in Vietnam. It’s only 60kms away from the Chinese border and it’s tucked in between a long landscape of mountains and valleys. It’s a much higher elevation and often a cloud will roll through and the town will be embedded in a thick chilly fog until winds push it through.
We got lucky in choosing our place to stay, the plan was to only stay for a couple days and then check out another town nearby to see if it had any cool places. But this place meets all of our current needs, so we’ve decided to use up the rest of the visa and stay here for a total of 14 days. My standards for what I want in a place to be comfortable has become very minimal. This current room:
⁃ Has TWO windows
⁃ Is pretty spacious (like 20m2?)
⁃ Has a couple little desks we can put stuff on
⁃ Has a coat rack!
⁃ Has a big common area where we can hang clothes to dry outside
⁃ Has free tea/water/kettle provided by the host
⁃ Has clean linens, clean everything
Most of these things actually feel pretty luxurious, so it’s really gone beyond my standards for comfort. We even have a small private balcony and another door that leads to the main common area balcony. I can’t even describe the joy in having tea in the mornings, not having to go anywhere and being able to make it at any time in the day is such a treat.
The bed is heated, as I mentioned before, but it is quite hard. It’s not uncommon to find beds with zero padding in this part of the world but at least we can keep our tea next to us on the bed with no concern of it spilling over.
Since the last post we took a tour of Ha Long Bay when we were in Cat Ba. What a remarkable place! They gave us plenty of time with kayaks and explore the area. It wasn’t explained to us that they’d be giving us a tour as a group so they didn’t lose anyone, so Dustin and I just ripped away in the kayak to go do our own thing and we found some secluded people-less areas. Later we ran into the group and our guide told us to stay with them. But they all moved so slow! And if we needed to go through a small passageway it would become a bottleneck cause some people struggle maneuvering kayaks apparently.
Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. Some spots were ruined by floating garbage though, either just washed up from the ocean or careless tourists. It can be tiring, depressing, and frustrating to see so much garbage scattered through natural sites, especially when there are tourists around. A lot of it is by the locals as well, everyone throws their trash on the street and in the gutters as if it’s the only way to deal with it.
I’m glad we did the tour, the food was great and everyone else on the boat were excited to be there so it made a good vibe for the whole day.
After Cat Ba we went back to Hanoi for a night and got bus tickets for Sapa. It was a nice drive, except for the fact that I had soup and coffee during the first break and apparently my bladder is the size of a golf ball so I was in full body pain for over an hour waiting for the bus to make its next bathroom break. I did ask the driver to just make a stop so I could pee on the road but he said wait 5 minutes. That was one of the most painful rejections in my life.
^how I felt
A while after the stop our bus got stuck in a traffic jam. We heard we were going to have to wait for up to 2 hours before the bus could move again. We decided that we would just grab our bags from underneath and walk the 6km up hill to get to Sapa. My empty bladder and I were very optimistic and it was actually really nice to hike around after sitting in a bus for a few hours. It was a tiring and sweaty walk but we beat the traffic and the crisp mountain air helped cool us off.
I’m so in love with our hosts here, they’re so accommodating and friendly, they sometimes bring us fresh fruit to our room, and she even made us breakfast this morning and brought it to our room. They’re an older couple who live in the lower area, he is a retired biology teacher and she runs a hair salon attached to this home. Neither of them speak English, we have just had to use either google translate or talk to their employee (who I’m pretty sure is either a daughter or niece) and she’ll translate for us. In the building next to us (which is kind of the guesthouse HQ) they have 4 kittens that are two weeks old that I have been making trips over to visit to get much needed cat time in. They didn’t charge us anything for laundry services and now we just call them our Vietnamese grandparents.
We spent a day hiking down to Cat Cat village, where they have a bunch of hand made structures, clothes and other Knick knacks. We took a path past some farmland, and made our way up the steep hill back to our place. Sapa is also known for the highest peak in Indochina, Fanispan. To get there you have to take the highest and longest three wire gondola in the world. It was intense, but really remarkable. I still hate heights, but it was actually a pretty chill ride as long as I focused on the scenery. We took the 600+ steps to get to the very top and by the time I made it to the peak I was pretty out of breath and lightheaded from the thin air. Took a few pictures then headed back down.
Cat Cat Village
There’s something special about routine, doing the same few motions every day is so grounding and it allows a bit more time for the self. I love a morning routine and every day is vastly different when we’re moving around. Just waking up in an unfamiliar bed can be a strange way to wake up, but when I have something that I can be certain about, like making a cup of hot tea, I feel a bit more myself and in sync with the day. Before leaving Canada I felt that any daily routine was monotonous and repetitive, which I still believe to some extent, but I now see the value in the most basic routines and ultimately the raw comfort of waking up in your own home.
We keep busy, but still a calm self dedicated life. Always getting out to explore when the weather allows it but having these few rainy days are a nice guilt free way to spend my time inside and work on some things I’ve been putting off. Writing included.