Day 25. Thurs 6/02
Night train to Sapa, My Tra Homestay, hiking, family dinner
Trains and buses will be our main form of transportation for the next couple weeks, so we kicked off our time in Vietnam with a night train. We weren’t sure what to expect in the middle class cabins, but we were told the cheapest cabins were a little too scrappy even if we were trying to save money.
Our group had mixed reviews: some could sleep hardly on the rickety train that made stops in many places all throughout the night, but I had no issues at all. I slept through the entire night, which probably was partly due, once again, to my lack of sleep from a few nights ago, but also the 2 Saigon Beer’s we had on the train before we left the station. Either way, we woke up in Sapa at 6am!
Here’s a little video summary of our day from my snap story: https://youtu.be/637Jiw4F8TA
From the train station we took a van to Ta Van, a village past Sapa where we had booked a homestay rather than a hostel (shoutout to our friends at the Jungle Party for the tip!). We were pleased that when we arrived that the house looked good, the showers had hot water, and the host, Andrew, spoke English. We learned from our friends in Hanoi that not all homestays are created equal (Sam recalled using a bucket to wash herself).
Even though we were hours early, Andrew served us breakfast and talked us through a tour of the village and some hiking paths we may want to try out. He also introduced us to his wife Lanh, her friend who helped with the homestay Linh, and his daughter, Mi. They were all extremely welcoming and we could already tell this would be a great next few days.
Around 1pm we finally resurfaced again after passing out for a few hours of much needed sleep. Well, all of us slept except Josh, who was entertaining Mi (mostly with his phone) on the couch downstairs. We packed a couple bags and went for an afternoon hike on the shorter trail Andrew described, which would take us over a hill and across rice paddies (fields), past a waterfall, through a bamboo forest, and across a suspension bridge leading to a neighboring village. I swear those are serious directions and not just a description of the Candyland board.
We set off and were immediately met by 3 women dressed in black robes with a basket of goods on their backs trying to sell us merchandise. We declined but they continued to follow us, asking us our names and where we were from, even as we ascended up our muddy and steep path. As we continued, two women turned back, but one persisted and so we ended up asking for directions from her at multiple forks in the road. Andrew’s instructions were good but broad, and there wasn’t a very clear path at any point in the hike until we reached the road during the last half hour.
We trudged along with our unofficial guide through some brief rain showers, which added to the already (Max:)”treacherous!” and slippery inclines. Mike and Max had brought along a pair of Keens – quite the lady magnets, if you were wondering – which had decent traction, but Saffy had on normal tennis shoes, which proved things a little tougher to maneuver. This made it that much funnier when Max slipped down the end of one of the hills, totally taking out our guide, who was politely holding Kaija’s hand as she cautiously descended the slope. From that point on, our guide kept an eye on Max, insisting on holding his hand down almost every hill for the rest of the 4-hour (7 mile-ish) hike.
We took a sort of back path back to our homestay and almost immediately as we hit the main road we were bombarded again by even more ladies selling from their baskets. We said no about one hundred times to everyone except our guide who had been so helpful, and Kaija bought a purse while Max flat out gave her a huge tip for all of his personal attention on the hike. 😂
The weather quickly changes here, but we had a great cool temperature for our hike and although we wished it would have rained a little less, it also could have rained a lot more. Fingers crossed for similar weather for the next few days while we take on more treacherous trails and adventures.
We got back and showered, relaxing in the hammocks outside while dinner was being prepared. It was served to all 12 of us staying at My Tra, which was surprisingly a mix of only Canadians and Americans. It’s pretty rare that we don’t meet Europeans or Australians in the places we stay, but everyone was still really great company. There were 3 couples, and 5 of the individuals had just finished teaching English in a foreign country before their traveling – one in Vietnam, two in Korea, and two in Japan. They all seemed surprised that we had such established plans for after traveling, as many of them had been abroad for over a year and were returning home soon to start over again. We picked their brains for more travel tips and shared stories about some of the places both of us had already visited. I think I prefer homestay to hostels simply because you can connect with all.of your roommates that much easier. People have such interesting stories! And the home cooked meals are 👌👌👌
- Saigon Beers over a game of King Cup on the train
- Our first meal at our homestay was scrambled eggs with tomato, peppers, onions, and cornflakes/tiny fried shallots (a great addition, but we aren’t totally sure which they are). Alongside the eggs were toast with butter (tastes different here, a little waxy but still good) and the sweetest strawberry jam I’ve ever tasted
- Stir fry noodles with chicken (10/10 would recommend)
- Family-style dinner with the rest of our roommates consisted of veggie spring rolls, (what looked like a) Vietnamese salad, sliced pork with a variety of sauces, chicken and vegetables, French fries, and rice. It was definitely a contender for the top meal we’ve had on the trip