Hanoi Guest House offered me 3 packages for Sapa 2D3N tour. Now only I noticed that there was not much difference between the deluxe and VIP packages. Anyway, I picked deluxe package at that time.
Standard: Six-sharing hard sleeper at 78usd
Deluxe: Four-sharing soft sleeper at 89usd
VIP: Four-sharing soft sleeper with private tour guide at 92usd
As the train rattled its way to Sapa, we started conversation with the couples in the same room. They had paid a much higher price to be in a twin sharing room. After checking with their travel agent, they were told that it was a mistake and they would get some refunds. Later when we were back in Hanoi, our guest house told us that the twin sharing rooms were very limited and some of the dishonest travel agents would offer you a twin sharing room but in the end put you in a four-sharing room. Since the service of the tour would largely decided by the travel agent, therefore it was important to choose a reliable travel agent.
The train had outperformed my expectation. The cabin was clean, and so did the room. You could see that each bed came with a pillow and a blanket. But perhaps you could not see the tiny water bottles on the table. Those were complimentary mineral waters for passengers. And, I am pretty sure that you could not see the power points below the table. I used that to charge my cellphone and camera batteries.
It was nearly 6 in the morning when we reached Lao Cai.
The train station was packed with passengers and tour guides.
This breakfast place was just opposite the train station. When we were told that the minivan would only come at 8am, some of the tourists started to make noise. The tour guide then explained that there were another two tourists coming from Sapa to join us. I think there was no point arguing as it was definitely not going to change the situation. So when the tourists were still trying hard to have the minivan to come earlier, I had brushed my teeth and washed my face in the restaurant's toilet.
All meals were included in the tour. For breakfast, the options were bánh mì(Vietnamese baguette) or Pho Ga(Vietnamese Chicken Noodles Soup) with coffee. Bánh mì with egg and cheese was good.
At 8pm, the minivan came and fetched us to Bac Ha Sunday market. It was the largest and most colorful market in the area with villagers arriving in from the surrounding hill tribes. They were selling all sort of things, from souvenirs, clothes, raw food, cooked food to whole cows. I even saw them selling puppies, not as pets, but to be cooked and eaten. It was sad to see those puppies.
bac ha market products
Hmong women with their colorful attires
I bought some key chains as souvenirs. They were so colorful and cute. But remember to bargain, and start from at least half the price.
Hmong women were promoting souvenirs to one of the tourist. And I noticed that Hmong people seldom come to us, maybe as Asian we did not look too difference from them.
After visiting Bac Ha market, it was lunch time. We were served with fried spring roll, stir fry beef with onion, stir fry cabbage, deep fried chicken in betal leaves, french fries and banana. Dishes were to be eaten with white rice.
The restaurant had made a mistake. The serving size was supposed to be for 4 person, but they only served us 2 set for 11 person. Coincidentally, there was a Vietnamese in our group, so she raised the concern to the restaurant. And, we got another set at the end of our meal. But most of our members had already left the table.
The lunch was at level 4 of the restaurant, great view from the top.
After lunch, we went to visit the minorities. We had to walk a short distance because there was no road for the minivan. One thing to complain was the hot weather. I was hitting my head because I did not remember to bring an umbrella.
On the way, we had to give way to horse-drawn.
It was a simple wooden house. I saw some family photos hanging on the wall of the living hall. There were two teenage girls in the photos. So I tried to ask the mama where were the girls. The tour guide translated the answer to me. It was a sad answer. One of the girl was studying in Lao Cai, but another girl was missing not long ago. I swear I could see tears in mama's eyes.
In the kitchen, the little girl on the bottom right photo had caught my attention. She was eating white rice with dried chili. I felt so sorry for her and her family. Even tough I had reminded myself not to be over-sympathetic before I came to Vietnam, but I still gave her some money. I did not speak her language, so I was hoping that this would help to express my concern.
The nice paddy field in the village.
I like this shot.
On the way back to Sapa, we dropped by the boarder gate to China at Lao Cai. There was nothing much there. We took some photos of the boarder gate and the temple, Den Thuong.
We spotted mobile stalls selling tau fu fa(bean curd custard) at 5KVND(~RM1). Of course we were not going to give it a miss. We tried both stalls and concluded that the uncle made better tau fu fa than the auntie. This Vietnamese style Tau Fu Fa had some crushed ice at the bottom of the bowl. It was a soothing dessert in such a hot weather.
Finally, we reached our hotel, Global Hotel II. Both lobby and restaurant were spacious.
We were given a very big room.
After enjoying a long bath(yes, I enjoyed bathing after the whole day sunning), we headed to the restaurant for dinner. We were allowed to pick one out of the 6 dinner set. One thing to note was all Vietnam tour did not provide drinks. We had to pay for it.
Menu 2 + Pineapple juice. The fruit juice was very concentrated, worth the penny.
We took a walk in the town. Sa Pa town was very small, so we ended up having foot massage. It was good and cheap, only 100KVND(~RM20) for an hour.
At first, we planned to have supper at Baguette and Chocolate. But we were late, the cafe closed at 9pm. So instead of nice coffee and tempting cake, we had some roadside BBQ for supper.
Sapa Global II Hotel
957 Fanxipan Road
GPS Coordinates: N22° 19.816' E103° 50.348'
To be continued ...