Monday, May 24, 2010

Chilling in Sa Pa

Literally, chilling, because it's actually cool here! Not cold really, but very comfortable. We are in the mountains and it's such a refreshing change from the heat of the city.

The night train was a bit of an adventure. The cabin is very small (as expected), and at first the air conditioning wasn't working. Very scary flashbacks to a fateful night train that Paula and I took in Morocco during my Europe trip. Luckily, it started working again and then I felt fine (cold, even) during the rest of the night. The night train got us into Lao Cai at 5am, and then we were shuttled here to Sa Pa by about 7. We had a whole day just wandering around Sa Pa, which Casey calls "quaintly messy Swiss-Vietnamese". It's cute, kind of mountain village like Banff. Beth is doing a one-day summit of Mt. Fansipan (pretty arduous!) today, but yesterday we just wanted to take it easy. However, we ended up trekking around a mountain, which was more up and down than I thought. IT was really cool though, and of course we were rewarded with nice views.

We are staying at a really nice hotel (all three of us in one room!) called Chapa Garden, which is centrally located but a bit off the main road, so it's quite relaxing. We are also eating pretty well, so last night we had dinner in the restaurant of the Victoria Hotel, the fanciest hotel in town. It's still very affordable (I had a local smoked trout appetizer, and pasta with a local mushroom sauce for about $25). There is more French influence up here in the North than in Saigon, so we've had a lot of western food recently. Today I had some pho which was only $1, and pretty darn tasty.

It is definitely relaxing here, which is great. We spend another day here and then head back to Ha Noi (one more night train), where Casey will stay for a day and then head back to Saigon to fly home. Beth and I will go from Ha Noi to Ha Long Bay/Cat Ba island, where we want to do some water stuff (kayaking, touring the limestone caves), and some rock climbing. Then I have one more day in Ha Noi, one day in Saigon, then 9 days in Hong Kong.

It feels like I've been in Vietnam for a lifetime, and yet I still have so much more time on this trip. It's really been wonderful, but I'm certainly starting to miss creature comforts of home and being with Brian. Hong Kong will be great, because it'll just be relaxing and visiting relatives, etc. but I'm sure after a couple of days I'll be itching to go home!

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