Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sapa 沙壩

Sapa 沙壩 - lovely landscaping by the indigenous people living there. But the same people are changing their lifestyle rapidly so that charm you might read in guidebooks from a few years back is short on offer. Another 5 years, you might not find anything resembling the guidebooks.

Arriving at the railway station in Lao Cai just before 5:00am, mum and dad got on the minibus arranged by the hotel and after just under 1 hour of driving up a windy road, they arrived at Sapa. Some tribal girls from the Black Hmong tribe were already loitering in front of the hotel entrance and their number would increase throughout the day. Soon the most frequently repeated English phrase in Sapa would be imprinted in your mind,
"Buy something from me, please!!"
These girls have perfected the art of selling to foreigners in that if you said, "Later!". They would ask your name and at a later time they would come back and identify you by your name and insist that you have promised to buy something from them "later"........

Not trying to put you off from going to say the spectacular paddy terraces, but more often than not, you just don't get the full picture from some of the guidebooks where you would only see beautiful picture of landscapes and people. But it's always better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised by the best. Of course there were also lovely tribal people selling some beautiful hand knitted bags, they just didn't loiter around the touristy area.

A lady from the Red Dao Tribe proudly showing her handmade embroidery
And you do see impressive views of paddy terraces, the scale and the beauty of which were truly breathtaking.

View of Lao Chai from Hmong Retreat where they stayed.

Ban Pho Tribal village near Bach Ha
Tea Plantation near Bach Ha

They visited a few areas around the Lao Cai region: staying in Lao Chai district, trekking Sa Seng and Sau Chieu, trekking Cat Cat Village, Bach Ha market, Ban Pho tribal village, tea plantation bordering Yunnan province in China. Their conclusion was worth going once in your life time and before all these places become even more touristy and commercialized than they are already.

Resident cat at the Hmong Retreat scouting for prey

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