Sunday, 14 November 2010

Hiking in Sapa

Despite being still not too fit I've decided to go to Sapa, so I've bought a trip in one of the travel agencies, which are here on each corner. Of course I've asked ten times about what's included and what is not and what we'll do there and how much hiking we'll do. I was told that there will be about 20 km hiking every day (I was going for 3 days and 4 nights - 2 nights were on the train though). I did not believe that but I thought if there will be about 15 km hiking a day it'll be still good, but when I've arrived to Lao Cai after 8h ride on the train and I've met tour agent in a hotel in Sapa and he told me that there will be 6 + 12 + 6 km of hiking I've started to complaint. It was not what I was told in the tour agency. He said that I could do 2 nights at home stay (in my original plan I was to do one night in a hotel and one in the home stay) and there will be more hiking. Which sounded ok for me, but than he said that he spoke with the tour agency and that I need to pay extra for that. But I've said no way and I spoke with the agency and finally they've given me that night home stay with no extra charge. But in fact home stay is suposed to be much cheaper than hotel so probably they've earned on me more than they would do if I've stayd in a hotel.
There was another problem, that I've had. In travel agency in HaNoi they've made a mistake and bought return ticket to HaNoi on 10th instead of on 11th. So again troubles, and I was complaining and they've promised to solve it and give me return ticket when I'm back from treking.
Treking itself was good. Not tyrying (maybe it was good option for me, as I was still taking medicines and I was not fully fit). There were 8 ppl in the group + english speaking tour guide, who was 18 years old girl from Black H'Mong tribe. From her I've learned a lot about Black H'mong and Red Zao tribes which live in some villages around Sapa.
Black H'Mong wear black clothes  - shorts, shirts and pieces of fabrics that they use to wrap their claves with (with self made flower patterns) with braoad indigo belts made from marihuana weed and died with leaves of some special plant. When they get married (usually with the age of about 15 or 165 years old) they wtart wearing big ear rings, comb in their hair and they arrange hair in a special way.
When girl gets married she will belong to the husband's famnily. So she lives with her husband and his parents in his house. It is son's duty to take care of his parents. Those customs are pretty similar to what we once used to have in Europe too, but about hundred years ago. But at least they can choose theis husband on their own. Couples are not arranged by parents any more.
On the contraty Red Zao wear long black trausers, black shirts, which are longer than those of Black H'Mong. They also have flower patterns on them but no indigo belt. When woman gets married she starts shaving her hair on the top of her forehead and wears piece of red cloth to cover hair. It looks like whe would have red hair. Other habits are similar.
I've asked out tour guide (I was asking a lot, especially on the second day, as we were only she and me, cause rest of the group was doing only one night at the some stay) if they can marry between two tribes and she said, that they do sometimes and if the Black H'mong girl marries Red Zao boy she becomes Red Zao. Same with faith. If man has different faith than his bride, she has to take over his faith. She has to always follow her husband. It is so good to be independent and be able to decide on my own what I want.
And of course that was one of the questions I was being constantly asked, how old am I, do I have husband, boyfriend. For my answer "no" I've always heard in response "We'll find you one here".
First night we were staying in Black H'Mong village. But it was not real home stay. We did not stay with the family as they describe it in the tour. It was kind of hostel with matresses on the floor and holes in the walls. We did not have dinner with the family, but with ourselves. The same was on the second night. It was a little bit more like with the family, cause at least I could see them, but still we were not eating with them, but with all other tourists. Seond night I've spent in Tay willage. They are similar to people leaving in Thailand, even their homes are similar, on big poles, with bamboo floor and walls. Actually I don't know how they survive winter with no heating. I was cold in the evening even though I was wearing all warm clothes that. At least during the night it was ok, but only because I had two blankets.
The best experience that I had there was on the third day during lunch. We went to Tay house for a lunch but I was not hungry so I've told my guide that I'll not be eating and that she should not order anything for me. But in the end I was sitting with her (and with a friend of her who joined us to learn as she also want to become tour guide) and with the lady in her house, around the fire place and I ate corn grilled in the fire, some spicy vegetable which they eat with vegeta and pear. That was finally traditional food in traditional house. And not that what we've been given: banana pancakes for breakfast or rice with different kinds of meat. I know that they eat it too, but probably not that often and that was cooked to satisfy western tastes.
Luckily they've managed to get train ticket for me, which I had some doubts about in the first instance, as I got it only when we've arrived at the train station and they were organising it. One of the guys took me on the motorbike as we had to hurry to be on time (even though it was not further than 300m), than left me in the vaiting room and after 5 mins handed me my ticket. Dunno how it works but I was happy to know that I'm leaving in 30 mins.
Most of the return way I've spend sleeping, only to wake up in HaNoi, get on the motorbike (my bargaining skills were fabulous this time, I was so harsh that guy who wanted to drive me knew that I'll not give him more than I've said so he had to go down with the price) and got to the hostel to jump into Kasia's bed. It was so good to meet friends and be able to lay my head for another 2 hours, take a shower and have breakfast in the hostel.
Now we are on the way to Halongbay (with another tour agency, let's see....). I've managed to book that trip today in the morning, together with Open Tour Bus to HoiAn for tomorrow evening. I don't remember having that productive morning during my trip ;-).
Waiting for the train to Lao Cai

Black H'Mong girl

Me and rice paddies

Red Zao married woman

School bell. They are very proud of their schools. That is what they were showing us in every village.

Black H'Mong woman crossing the river

Yes, it was cold

School - there are pupils from two or three classes in one actual class room
How disappointing, this is not the bridge that we used to cross the river
Red Zao girl
Second night of home stay, they prepare food for us
Here I did my second home stay
 This is where we did our first home stay

Rice paddies

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