A very Sapa Christmas
Well, I’m afraid to say that Christmas is officially over. I returned to Hanoi in the wee hours of this morning on the overnight train from Sapa. The ride back to Hanoi was much smoother than the ride up to Sapa. Coming home, I had both Pete and Duc in a private cabin, and one which was pretty luxurious compared to others. In 2008, when I traveled back to Hanoi from Sapa, I suffered a horrendous amount of bed bug bites, some of which, after getting severely infected, still scar my legs. Because of this, I’m not a big fan of overnight trains (go figure!).
On the way up to Sapa last Wednesday, though, I had new friend Duc with me, and two strangers in the cabin. At some point in the evening, I was in dream mode, but had a frightening nightmare which entailed some creepy man trying to move me over to share my bed. It was all too realistic and relevant to my situation, and so the crazy dream led me to scream in my sleep, startling my fellow cabin mates. I was a bit embarrassed, but the face and hand gestures of the man on the bed across from me, left me to giggle softly after I had recovered from the nightmare. See….travel is FUN!!!
Once in Sapa, I was met with blue skies and unusually warm weather. Normally it’s about 5 degrees Celcius, but we enjoyed about 25 degree weather in the day. After arriving in the early morning and getting settled, we headed out to the valley for a very easy walk through the village. The Hmong and/or Red Dao ladies love to walk along with you, in hoped that you’ll buy something from them. They make hand-embroidered purses, sell silver bracelets and other trinkets. But they also get a chance to practice their English, which is pretty good.
I had a nice chat with Thang (?) who told me she was 26 years old and mother to two children. That was it for her. Unlike her mother who had ten. Whoah! She has one boy and one girl and feels blessed. She could understand difficult English such as, “Are you the oldest or youngest among your brothers and sisters?” I always enjoy speaking to the locals and learning about their life, I just don’t enjoy the hard sales pitch at the end of the walk! But it was fun and we all enjoyed the great weather! Mountain air is soooo refreshing!
Christmas Eve, Duc, Pete and I enjoyed a lovely hot pot for dinner and thought of creative names for Pete’s new company. When you are trying to find a twist on meanings, it helps to have an internet connection. We laughed our butts off with some of the phrases we came up with and also some of the new words we learned; synonyms to words we were pondering.
Christmas Day was a lazy one and we took a drive through the mountains and stared over the beautiful valleys. It was my first time to see the peak of Mt. Fansipan. I’ve been challenged to climb it, but am told it is more difficult than Mt. Fuji. Hmm….we’ll have to see how I feel in July or August!
Christmas Day night was the big dinner at the restaurant. The local minority children arrived just before 6pm and then filed into the restaurant to grab a seat. This was the part of Christmas I couldn’t wait for. Pete and Sapa Rooms Boutique Hotel are very involved in the local communities. In addition to his partnership with Ma Cha school, he also does a Sunday Soup program for the local children and feeds about 80 kids each week on average. He distributes lots of donated clothing to some of the most rural areas; these are places where most of the kids run naked for lack of anything.
The Christmas program provided all the kids a meal and a present, which was either clothing or school supplies, or a combination of the two. You can see some photos of the dinner and more HERE.
The day after Christmas, we took the remaining presents into TaPhin village where the Red Dao tribe lives. The presents went quickly, as it was the mothers and grandmothers who were there to accept…the kids were all having lunch at home when we arrived. We also spent some time hiking around and then to the medicinal baths. Being the only chick, I was alone in my little room in a wooden tub, but it was so relaxing and rejuvenating…I really enjoyed the hot herbal water. Awesome.
The train ride back to Hanoi came all too quickly. As I’ve written and as you know, Pete is one of my most favorite people ever and I am so delighted I could spend this special holiday with him at his hotel in Sapa and spend a wee bit of time with the local people. It was a great Christmas and one of my fondest memories of Vietnam to date. Hope you all had a great holiday! I’ll look forward to seeing your updates on Facebook!
Now – let’s get ready to ring in the New Year! Hello 2010!!!
A little Red Dao boy. – There are about 7 ethnic minorities in the Sapa area. It is such an interesting part of Vietnam! I’m glad I got to take a peek for a weekend and for a very special Christmas!