Here we are in Sapa – a hill town not far from the Vietnamese / Chinese border. It is providing us with an interesting cultural experience in that we are able to visit some of the villages of the Black H’Mung and Red Dao ethnic groups. These are some of the people that the French used to call Montagnards (Mountain People).

We came here on the night train from Hanoi. It was a rickety old train although our carriage was owned by the Victoria Hotel here in Sapa. We had soft bunks and while the train rattled on at an average speed of only about 40 km an hour, we did get a few hours sleep and were in good shape when we arrived here at about 7.00 in the morning on Thursday. Vietnamese stations are something to be believed!

Everything in this town is either up or down hill, depending on which way you are facing. It has an interesting market (and a much bigger one on Saturdays when all the villagers come into town. Unfortunately, we will not see it as on Saturday we take the day train back to Hanoi). The streets are alive with vendors looking for the tourists to buy some of their handicrafts. Some are really pushy and it is difficult to walk too far without being attacked by the shopping mafia.

Yesterday we went to see a Black H’Mung village – a simple village without electricity and lots of chooks, pigs and buffalo. This morning, we went a little further to Red Dao village which not only had electricity, it also had a UNESCO sponsored running water supply. We were followed by a group of four or five women who had very good English and asked us many questions. Before returning to the car, they predictably opened their bags and bought out the shop again. We now have a number of souvenirs that we will probably never look at again, but the people were so nice, it was very difficult not to buy anything from them. I think that one was interested in marrying me!

This afternoon we have a free afternoon and time for another look at the town market and the town streets. Sapa is at a relatively high altitude and is quite cool. As a result it gets very foggy and today we cannot see the surrounding moutains