After a slightly uncomfortable sleep in the valley, I woke to the sounds of cocks crowing and a cat mournfully crying; a horrible, distressing sound. We ate breakfast – banana pancakes – took some group photos of the gang, and of some of the village elders that had come to say hello or to sell some handmade wares, then we began a difficult and tiring trek through a number of other villages in a baking midday sun. The views of the cascading rice terraces were wonderful, the best I’ve ever seen, and their immense beauty was absolutely captivating. I could easily have spent a week or more here, trekking the hills of this wonderful place. We stopped for a short break in a small house, where village kids were playing with huge insects – pitting them against each other in combat on the stone floor of the house. We had tea here, then set off again up and down and round the hills, an exhausting traipse yet worth it in every way. We saw a beautiful waterfall, and we had lunch next to it, which was a simple but mouth-watering tomato and noodle soup. At the next village we reached a bus which was waiting to escort us back to the hotel where we had first set off from, which was a somewhat disappointing end. I wanted to hike all the way back.
We had some time to kill, so I walked around the town. Sapa town is amazingly pretty, a real alpine town without the snow, huge mountains looming on all sides. I got some photos transferred onto CD, bought a few clothes from the markets, and headed back to the hotel for lunch. That evening, I got on the night train back to Hanoi. This time, my train room mates were an amiable Korean chap, and a quiet and reserved Malay/Singaporean, who was as thin as a rake. The Korean and I stayed up chatting and drinking, and he gave me a bottle of Shoju, one of 5 he’d brought with him from Seoul to give to friends he made on his way. The journey was again noisy, and sleep wasn’t easy, but I’d had a wonderful time in Sapa. Two days was enough in the end, I felt, although I could imagine spending weeks there if I had the leisure to do so.