Sa Pa has been great so far. We are traveling with a brother sister combo from Canada. It has been great, because (like us) they like to eat, drive motorbikes, and treat themselves to French desserts. We rented a motorbike for the day ($5) and drove outside of town for an hour. We stopped at a waterfall and ate some food at a roadside stall.
Sa Pa sits at an elevation of 1650 meters. It was founded in 1922 by the French. But I think that they left because of the freezing temperatures that we are currently experiencing. Every day, we wear nearly every piece of clothing that we own and I am beginning to think that we will not be ready for China in a week or Europe during the middle of winter.
The town of Sa Pa is situated on the side of a beautiful valley. It is very misty and foggy every day and it is difficult to convey the splendor in pictures. Our room is at the top floor, we splurged on the $15 room, and it is 172 calf burning steps to the top from the lobby of the hotel.
There are “hill tribes” nearby that are the indigenous people of the region. We are surrounded by the Black H’Mong and Red Dzao people. Like gang members, they dress accordingly. They make all kinds of tapestries and hawk them everywhere. Their hands and feet are dyed from working with natural dyes. They also sell food which is ridiculously cheap for us. There is a strong French presence still in Vietnam. This means that we get to eat croissants, chocolate, and baguettes all day long!
One night, we went for dinner in the town of Sa Pa. More hill tribe, ethnic minority, buy our handicraft locals were out and about. They offered us their handmade purses, blankets, and pillows, but as it got later, we were getting offers for marijuana, hashish, and opium.
Now, I have to tell you a bit about our current traveling companions, Shannon (a guy) and Naomi. Shannon is a doctor from Northern Canada and his sister Naomi lives in Toronto. Shannon likes to rock climb, drive motorcycles, and fight in mixed martial arts. He has been backpacking all over the world on and off for twenty years. His stories and generosity are amazing. Naomi was a refugee from Cambodia when she was a child and fled to Canada. She is very good at navigating from the back of a motorbike.