Bắc Hà to Sa Pa
110 km. Left at 8.00am arrived at 2.30pm
I was offered by Sue to have some time behind the jeep’s steering wheel to have the full Vietnam jeep safari experience.
I got it all, rain on the off road track, an exploding tyre and no spark under the hood. She picked a good day to be in the lead car!
It was a short day to Sa Pa with a pretty good road all the way other than a lovely off road track we took for about 40 minutes.
Trajco survived being my passenger on the off road section and seemed relaxed enough that he was reading the day to day guide as we drove along.
The Jeeps are loads of fun to drive. Lots of character and you have to get the knack of the gears as well as getting used to quirks like the windscreen wiper dropping off as you drive along.
A short while after the coffee stop there was a huge bang. Thankfully from the rear of the car and on a fairly straight section of road where we could pull up and assess the excellent shredding job I had done on the tyre.
This was quickly changed but then the car would not start. No spark. The mechanics worked on it for a while and finally we were off again. The rain had eased which was good timing for the repairs.
The back road into Sa Pa was worse than the off road track and we started to see many more tourists here. Then you come around a corner and see many large buildings perched on the side of the mountains. Our view was obstructed by clouds as we arrived at around 2.30pm in the rain through the narrow streets to our hotel the Cat Cat View Hotel.
All our rooms looked over the mountains which, by the time our lunch arrived, was spectacular! The hotel is at around 1,500m above sea level.
After lunch we were free to wander the streets of Sa Pa.
The site where Sa Pa is located became a key location for the French military as well as missionaries. For decades, this mountainous backwater was unknown to tourists, but in 1993 Sapa became accessible to many when it was formally promoted as a tourist destination. Now it is very touristy, and it felt very “grubby” after what we had seen on the other destinations along the route. In the countryside everyone seemed happy and clean, here kids and adults were wearing dirty clothes, were pushy with selling various wares on the street and young boys and girls were also out selling. Beautiful as the surroundings are, I found it quite sad here.
Of the shops along the street I saw when I went out for a walk, I would recommend Indigo Cat which is very close to the hotel and has traditionally made textile products.
We walked up the road to a Vietnamese BBQ restaurant for dinner. All sorts of meat and vegetables are cooked over coals including frogs’ legs and chicken feet.
Ordering drinks was a comedic affair. We had a very surly waiter who did not smile all night. We tried to order what was on the menu as apple cider and refilled water bottles with something that was like plum sherry arrived, then one with apple.. not quite what we expected. Trajco asked for a green tea, just one, and a huge jug of it appeared. Beer is always a safe bet, that arrived no problems!