June 17, 2005

relief in sapa

we left hanoi wed night on an overnight train to Lao Cai. it was supposedly an air conditioned train, but i think that was just a marketing gimic. after sweating all night we arrived in Lao Cai and took a hour bus ride to sapa. we've been hanging out here since then. luckily it's been about 75 F and raining most the time we've been here, and i've been enjoying the lack of heat quite a bit.

after a small bit of confusion while checking into tour hotel. (since there are two hotels with the same name right next to each other... accompanied by a tale of divorce.) we napped a bit and then went out to grab food at a restaurant called "little sapa." we had some tasty wild pig cooked sapa style. (which means served on a sizzling platter having been cooked with onions and spices.) this was some fresh spring rolls were really tasty. (the restaurant had been recommended by some people we met while traveling to haulng bay.
after that we walked to the cat cat village and saw the cat cat waterfall. along the way were lots of pigs, water buffalo, chickens, corn, rice, weed, bamboo, and strange foul. i managed to take some good pictures. after getting back we went to a french restaurant and headed back home to read and pass out. (this town is really dead at night.)
today we took an old beat up russian jeep to the tach bach water fall. it was a pretty impressive fall. about 100m broken up over multiple stages. we got to hike up a trail on one side, cross the falls half way up on a bridge, and head back down. it was pretty cool. the jeep was about as beat up as the road we were traveling on, which was well washed out in sections. also, the driver had to refill the radiator a couple times since the radiator cap had been replaced with a rag and a piece of twine. the driver also took us to a high up mountain pass to see the neighboring providence, but we couldn't see more that 15 feet due to the clouds.
at the waterfall i had some really great sticky rice from a lady on the side of the road. up here they serve stick rice that has been stuffed in the hollow center of a piece of bamboo or sugar cane. (i'm not sure which.) this is roasted over coals for a while, then peeled open, and then you break off bits of the rice and dip it into crushed peanuts and salt. it was really really tasty.
tonight we went back to "little sapa" for dinner and had some chicken with yogurt that was cooked in the same fashion as the pork we had earlier. it was super tasty. (we wasted meals trying food at other places around town and "little sapa" was the clear winner.)
tomorrow we're leaving really early to catch a bus back to lao cai. from there we will try to catch a public bus to ba ca. we're planning to spend two nights in ba ca. sunday morning there is a huge market in ba ca where we might buy some horses and water buffalo. (after buying and drinking some of the local corn whisky i've read about.) a lot of the hotels in sapa offer day trips to ba ca, but we wanted to spend some more time there because it's not supposed to be as touristy as sapa and there are lots of small villages to hike to. one hotel in here in sapa tried to talk us out of taking the public bus there because apparently all the locals would be on it with their animals heading to the market. so it could get interesting.

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