Through my CouchSurfing host I met Alex, who is from Thailand, and together we traveled to Sa Pa. Alex was a great travel companion because he loved Vietnam. This was his 6th trip to the country! Out of the many countries he’d visited in south East Asia, this was his favorite because of the food and the coffee. Him and I must have had about 15 cups of traditional Vietnamese coffee in the 3 days we spent together, it’s really that delicious.
We booked a sleeper bus through a tour agency for $10. At that time, I didn’t know what a “sleeper bus” was so I was very confused when I entered the bus and saw 3 rows of bunk bed looking columns. Instead of individual seats there were pods, and they were not made to fit tall people comfortably.
It took us around 6 hours to travel up north to Sa Pa. The town itself is ugly. It reminded me of Aguascalientes near Machu Picchu. Aside from streets lined with hotels and stores, there was a pretty little church in the middle of town and a large auditorium type that mirrored the beauty of the paddy fields. And in the end, seeing the paddy fields and the villages of the indigenous people is why people visit Sa Pa.
Indigenous Hmong travel into town from their villages to sell handmade bags and scarfs and after showing a bit of interest, I ended up being chased by a large group of them for a while! Eventually we met Mes who was 18 and spoke perfect English like all the other women. She told us about her village and we asked her if she’d take us there. I’m assuming this deal was illegal but I would rather have her keep the money than go through a tourist agency who pay the women whatever they want.
She met us at 8am the following day and we began our 9km walk to Lao Chai. Most of the trek was downhill and through the paddy fields, which was beautiful but incredibly tricky. An intense storm over night also didn’t aid the situation. We were sliding all over the place and had to reach out for Mes’ hands like children while she and other women gracefully jumped down in flip flops and rain boots.
We made it to the village 3 hours later.
We returned to Sa Pa city on a motorbike and thank God for that because I was exhausted. I ended up taking a three hour nap!