Night Train – Hanoi to Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa Vietnam holiday weekend

Greetings,

It’s been a while since I updated here, yes?

~shakes head furiously~

Took a sleeper night train from Hanoi to Sapa, Vietnam last night. We booked through an agent and it cost us ~$17US each. The train was a sleeper and it was quite the trip. The room we had was tiny, just large enough for 6 bunks. Quite the adventure having arrived home from Halong bay ~2 hours previously. We were teamed with a group of Vietnamese but previously saw some other tourists or at least I did, 3 women. One of the gents in our room spoke great English and I asked if he was willing to trade with the other tourists, no problem or “Cum co chi” as they say here. We even traded ticket vouchers to make it “official”.

Sleeper night train from Hanoi to Sapa, Vietnam

Before arriving to the train we got ripped by a taxi. We loaded up and I told him meter, he said “no” like a little kid refusing to go to bed, high on sugar after Halloween. I said “yes” and he said “no” that went on for a while. Then he asked for 40,000vdn which was ridiculous, I proclaimed “Troi oi makwah!” which means “OMG that’s expensive”. I then said 20,000 he said 30,000, I said “whatever”. When the taxi arrived it had only cost 12,000 and I gave him 25,000 while giving him the “screw you in the nicest way possible” vibe. He wouldn’t budge or even take the money, threw down the last 5,000 and smiled and he just walked away, what a scammer.

The train was ~8-9 hours and we arrived in the dark of night. From there we jumped in a minivan that cost us ~1.5us each and made our way to Sapa. It’s a holiday today and this place is packed, so packed that we had to search endlessly to find a room, luckily, as always, we prevailed through much persistence and perspiration. It was COLD walking around here at ~5-6am, heck it’s freezing while I type this.

The room was not ready so we did what any sensible people would do, cruised the town. You know in Bangkok, those “frog ladies” who come from village tribes and sell beatnik bohemian wares to anyone slightly hippified who’d likes that type of gear? This place is a hotbed with them most often outnumbering tourists, seriously. They are not aggressive though, quite nice actually. It’s more endearing than annoying and don’t be surprised if you have ~15 of them following you around. Most of them speak good English and love to laugh.

Cute dzay village girls in Sapa, Vietnam

young dzay village girls in Sapa, Vietnam

The town is picturesque lined with shops, stalls and a market. There is a festival of sorts going and supposedly 5-10,000 people are here. This town is typically much sleepier, we picked a great time to hit it up, indeed. We cruised around for a few hours and my friends bought some stuff. You can get North Face Jackets here with quality zippers for ~$15 a thick fleece, ~$20 a gortex shell or ~$35 for the combo. Sadly, I have not found my style in my color as it’s COLD up here. Feels like Ottawa in late fall or early spring, take your pick.

I am tempted to purchase one but KNOW that I’m going to China soon, I will have all the selection in the world, of every size known to mankind AND MORE. YOU KNOW I’m going to the “Special Economic Zone”, obviously.

dzay village girls in Sapa, Vietnam

dzay village lady in Sapa, Vietnam

We plan on staying here a few days, may do some hiking of sorts or just may chill in the many cafes or stores. There is a market here that is quite authentic by all accounts. By authentic I mean it even sells dog meat. I have a photo attached below of some tasty looking dog skull. If I find one on a spit somewhere, I’ll have to indulge, anything else would simply be boring. A pig is far smarter than a dog, I do believe and we eat them. Should the world have worked out differently, maybe we’d have pigs as pets and dogs would live the gruesome life most pigs must endure. As a result, I refuse to let the label “Man’s best friend” stand in the way of trying new things. If you won’t eat dog, you shouldn’t eat meat, that is my reckoning. Also, this isn’t “your dog back home” so quit envisioning yourself eating your family pet, will ya?

eating dog in Sapa, Vietnam, fresh in market

pig spit roast in Sapa, Vietnam

The local people selling their hippy burlap attire are quite nice and of all ages. They range from ~6 year old kids with babies on their backs to 60+ year old ladies with dental hygiene that would make any practitioner rich beyond their wildest dreams. Everyone here seems quite pleasant thus far and I am glad I came here, same with the others I’m with.

dzay village elder in Sapa, Vietnam

The festival was going at 8am, they were blaring house / dance music and people from around the world gathered in the main square to mingle, bust out some moves and just enjoy life. Having done some reflection on my recent accident, I feel lucky to be alive with minimal damage, because I am.

holiday weekend festival in Sapa, Vietnam

cute dzay village boy carrying baby in Sapa, Vietnam

Halong Bay was quite a fun trip, mainly because we had an amazing boat of absolutely absurd and adventurous souls. If we had been on another boat, with some more vanilla flavored individuals, I’d have many bad things to say. The trip itself was a bit of a crap shoot with all sorts of little “issues and annoyances” abound. I didn’t let them get to me but it reinforced my general disdain for group travel. The trip itself was good and I have so many photos my finger is sore so I will save the update for another day. Perhaps in a few days or when I return home and am bored after a round of golf. Long and short however is that Halong Bay is BEAUTIFUL and the definition of a tourist trap.

Halong Bay, Vietnam is beautiful

I will say that when you get to Halong Bay, they want your passports. Mine was at the Embassy and I GUESS I stand out as the guy only asked me where mine was. I had to go to the Police station, sign some crap and pay an “insurance voucher” or something of that nature. Meanwhile half the boat just didn’t give it or “went to lunch” and it was no problem for them, ha. I can’t complain though, we paid $38US each for 3 days, 2 nights while some people we met paid $80us. Do your homework when booking these things, aight?

It’s freezing up here for someone used to tropical climates and this is all I have to type. I will say however that typing with cold hands makes me NEVER want to crack my knuckles again. It hurts and reminds me of coming in from a winter day, sitting on a computer in my old house and experiencing a similar sensation, not so fun.

Cool Halong Bay, Vietnam tour guide.

Slept a while, now we will cruise the town some more and enjoy a variety local cuisine while chatting with the local village ladies donned in burlap in this beautiful remote town / village of Sapa, Vietnam. Oh yeah, if you think that people in Vietnam or anywhere aren’t friendly, get off the guided tour. Those people put up with BS tourists all day, meet someone the way you’d meet someone back home and you’ll realize every country has pleasant people and we truly live in  such a wonderful world that all I can say is “WOW”. Met the dude above at 5am on the boat, we were the only two that were up, we drank strong tea and smoked cigs, good times.

Cordially,

P.S: The internet here is spotty but amazing considering where we are. I have many videos that will have to be shared at a later date.

P.P.S: If you brought an expensive winter jacket from home, then came here, you’d feel most “played”.

P.P.P.S: If you sent me a facebook message, I’m not replying because I can’t get on, probably won’t be able too for a while, especially with China coming. On the topic of Facebook,  join SHABL’s page here.

8 Comments

  1. Nathan

    April 24, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Incredible pictures! Keep the posts coming if you can. 🙂

  2. Rob

    April 25, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Thank you sir, many more coming. In fact, I have 3000gb of videos and pics. 😉

  3. Candice

    April 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Holy crap, Halong Bay. Amazing.

  4. PHIL BASSTARD

    May 4, 2010 at 8:38 am

    XAVIER 8LBS 9 OZ BORN 21ST OF APRIL 7:36 AM BOUYA !!!

  5. Huyen

    July 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Just went to Sapa and Ha Long Bay like you did last June. Took the Livitrans night train but it was so hot that the air conditioning and electricity went on and off. In Sapa, there was this fantastic cafe serving great ice cream (with fresh ingrediants) right next to the tourist information place. We sat there right by the gate facing the road and watched the police (cong an) ticket everyone without a helmet. Mind you, just like everyone else, we were constantly harassed by the black hmong women. I spoke Vietnamese to them and they took the hint.

  6. jon

    September 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Ha Long bay – Did the same trip myself, what a shambles, i swear they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery! Worth it though, adn only paid the $40 not the $80 like some!

    • Sasha

      October 18, 2011 at 11:09 am

      Hello Rob and Jon,

      Have been scouring the internet for hours and could not find any Ha Long bay tours for anything less than $60 (2D/1N). Do you mind recommending the ones you followed? Or did you just chance upon a ‘tour agency’ in Hanoi with that offer?

      Million thanks in advance!

      • Rob

        October 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm

        All I know is that if you are at Hanoi Backpackers and walk out into lane and take a right. Keep going to the end of that lane. Cross the street and walk right for no more than 10-30 feet and it’s there.

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