We finally arrived in Sa pa. The overnight train ride on the sleeper berth was worth it, and so was the early morning dash out of the train wondering if we were at the correct stop. We rented a van to drive us down to our accommodations, which took a tad less than an hour's drive. (Note: A lot of taxi drivers perch themselves at the train station so do your own math before agreeing on a cab price). Washed up in the holding area, and had a simple breakfast (although all I could barely manage was orange juice and some plain bread) whilst waiting for our rooms to be ready. As the sun rose to reveal the rolling hills peeking behind the clouds, we were simply enlightened by the majestic view at the window. I've read many a time that Sa pa is where heaven meets earth, and indeed Sa pa lies in the heart of the uniqueness of Vietnam - such bliss to have woken up to such a view throughout my stay. Pictures certainly don't do it justice ♥
Exploring the Northwestern part of Vietnam was quite a drastic change from all the cities I've been to, the mix of tribal life and enveloping mountains were a refreshing breath of air. Trekking in the cool climate was also a huge welcome, the tropical heat in Singapore just makes it too unbearable to trek on for hours!
Being typical equator-beings, winter in Vietnam can be quite cold. Especially with Sa pa being in the North and higher in altitudes at cloud level, the temperatures tend to be slightly slower. For that, I was thankful that I had bought a fleece coat from Hanoi - so do remember to read up before you pack!
Mid-December is the trademark monsoon season for South-east Asian countries, hence many routes were reduced to nothing but muddy tracks eroded by the rainwater. We saw many warning signs, presumably telling us in Vietnamese to back off (not very tourist friendly). It's not only slippery and muddy, most routes are very narrow and if you do not hold on properly, you're just standing at the side of the cliff. The vehicles
In Sa Pa, we were lucky to find a wonderful room overlooking Mt. Fansipan, 3143m., the highest in Vietnam. It was a bit misty outside our window, but we could still see glimpses of the steep rice terraces that are characteristic of Sa Pa. The weather wasn't our best friend here with downpours greeting us and making travel tedious. Still, the warmth and friendliness of the local ethnic villagers and the colorful market made up for the cool, misty weather. We were lucky to have encountered the Autumn Lights Festival, which brought out so many colors and a whole lot of joy in the streets.
There is a rare combination of old and new in Sa Pa as the new infrastructure provides good restaurants and hotels while the tribes people from surrounding villages hang around trying to sell their handicrafts.