Hanoi Duck

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I don't even want to look to see how long it is since I've blogged - I fear that I won't recognise the date in this century.

After recovering from a bout of gastritis that laid me very low for too long, my big sister arrived for a short break en route home to Sydney from Hong Kong. She arrived late in the afternoon, and almost imeadiately we boarded a train to Lao Cai on the Chinese border for a three day tour of Sa Pa.

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We shared our overnight train carriage ('soft sleeper'), with two male polyglots, a Dane who spoke perfect English, was reading German and getting along in Viet; and (maybe) a French Canadian. His seemingly perfect French (too ignorant to really know for sure), and native mid American accent seemed to point to this. We both slept well, and were only disappointed that the call for coffee in the morning before we reached our destination was for an overpriced (10,000 dong) insipid paper thimble of nescafe.

We shared a minibus up the mountain to Sapa with various other tour groups, and after winding up the pass through a series of switchbacks and passing an increasing number of impossible terraces cut into the mountain sides to grow rice.

After showering and breakfast at the Golden Sea Hotel, we had time for a short walk through the markets before being met by our Guide ?Phin. Soon we were on our way, seeking to avoid the worst of the incessant cries of "Buy From Me" from the elaborately clad hill tribe women that lined the streets and accompanied any tourist who moved from the sanctuary of the guarded hotel or cafe.

Light rain started and stopped throughout the walk which was a pleasant stroll up the sealed road (Silver Waterfall Road) to begin with

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