Sunday, April 21, 2013

Motorcycle Tour Through Sapa Valley, Vietnam

After receiving a not-so-nice welcome to Hanoi, I decided to travel further north and experience the beauty that is Sapa. This area is absolutely stunning! The scenery is exquisite and truly breathtaking. I wish my camera could do it justice.
 
Sapa-Vietnam
 
locals-sapa

(You might recognize my first photo from this post.)


I left on an 8pm overnight train from Hanoi and arrived in Sapa at 5am the next day (word to the wise: as a female, it is imperative to limit the amount of liquids you consume before taking a sleeper train. I went 12 hours without peeing to avoid using that toilet!). I had arranged to take a two day moto tour of the Valley and stay overnight with a local family. In areas like this where the povery rate is so high, I think it’s absolutely necessary for travellers to be responsible in supporting locally owned and operated businesses.

My guide was Phuong, a 28 year old native who was very knowledgeable about the area and its residents. Sapa is the name of the town on the mountain whereas Sapa Valley stretches 35km in diameter and lies beneath the eastern range of the Himalayas. The last major peak of this range, Fan Si Pan is Vietnam’s highest mountain, but due to the heavy mist and fog I wasn’t able to get a clear picture. Phuong took us on a winding route deep to the bottom of the valley. I remember sitting on the back of that motorcycle and feeling so free as the wind was hitting my face. The sky cleared up and we had beautiful weather for the rest of the day’s tour. The ride wasn’t as smooth as on the back of Matthew’s motorcycle (it had been 8 months since we’d last seen each other and I was missing him terribly!) but I sat back and took in the most gorgeous views I’d ever seen.

Rice-paddy-sapa

Vietnamese-Water-Buffalo
Just some kiddies riding their pet water buffalo
Phuong pointed out 5 ethnic minority groups in Sapa Valley, the Hmong people being the most common. Clothing and crops were different from group to group with rice and corn as the staples. Bright head dresses for the women, some with tunic and shorts, others with knee socks, carrying woven backpacks with babies strapped to their bodies and various stacked items balanced with ease on their heads. Loads of jewellery with 1-3 earrings in the same hole in each ear and fingers stained blue from indigo dye. I soaked it all in.

We stopped to have lunch with some of Phuong’s friends and stretch our legs. Our morning had gone so perfectly but we struggled throughout the afternoon. It was the rainy season and the deeper we rode into the valley, the more we came across road after road washed and mudded out. Phuong and I were filthy trying to push his motorcycle through the mud pits. Never have I been so grateful to finally return to the rocky gravel path that had made my crotch so sore just a few hours before. Despite the foreign environment, thin mattress on the floor, and more creepy crawlies than I cared to think about, when my head hit the pillow that night I was out like a light.

Sapa-valley-hmong
The women of Sapa

Local-home-Sapa-Valley
Afternoon tea

Motorcycle-tour-sapa
Exploring Silver Waterfall and Sapa Valley
 Sapa-town

The next day we came back into town to explore a bit more. I trekked up Silver Waterfall then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around visiting local shops and restaurants. It was a tiring but rewarding experience and I hope that I can visit Sapa again in the future.

14 comments:

  1. Wow. It really was beautiful there! Your photos are awesome!

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    1. Thank you Aimee! These pics were taken with a little Pentax point and shoot camera that I picked up the week before. I didn't know how they would turn out but am so glad they were able to capture the natural beauty!

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  2. Your photos are stunning! It almost looks fake how beautiful it all is! Sounds like a wonderful time :)

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    1. Thanks Jaclyn! And yes, hard to believe, but it really was that beautiful. I remember driving into town from the train station and despite it being 5.30am I was wide-eyed in awe of this beautiful town on the mountain as the sun was rising upon it. I highly recommend Sapa if you ever find yourself out exploring Vietnam :)

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  3. you have me hooked with these photos! they are so gorgeous! we're hoping to make it to vietnam this summer!

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    1. I hope you two can make it over there - Vietnam was lovely! Sapa and Hoi An were my two favourite spots (and as you can see) incredibly beautiful.

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  4. Wow, it looks so beautiful.

    xo Donald

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    1. Omg it was! You know those moments when you just have to stop and take a mental picture because a camera is incapable of capturing what you see? That was Sapa. Breathtaking!

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  5. Jealous of your travels. I have 2 little ones and don't know when I will next take an overseas trip. www.not-going-out-like-that.com

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    1. I feel ya! It takes a lot more coordination (and money!) to travel abroad with little ones. Hopefully in a few years you will all be able to go out and explore together! If you are looking for any tips ytravelblog.com has some amazing stories about their family of four and their adventures across the world.

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  6. These are some amazing pictures! I wish I could travel more!
    I do need to pick up my camera more, regardless!

    xo Michelle
    misanthropycreation.com

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    1. Thanks Michelle! And I know what you mean about the camera thing! I went for MONTHS without taking any pictures but recently got a DSLR (aka fancy schmancy camera) so now I'm much better and more motivated to take photos on a regular basis. I find that it's so worth it to take that extra couple of seconds, even if just to pull out your phone, to snap some pics so you have them to look back on.

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  7. Ahhh these photos are making me want to go back!! Such a special place. It looks like it was a lot warmer when you visited than when I was there!

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    1. I know what you mean, I really hope to visit again but being totally realistic it'll likely be at least another 5 years before that happens. Will be weird to see if/how Sapa has changed by that point. I visited in Aug. 2010, rainy season, so it was hot and sticky in the valley!

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