After our cruise on Halong Bay, we headed back to Hanoi to catch our overnight bus to Sapa.
Some people prefer to travel with everything pre-booked, and others book everything as they go. Jared and I usually end up doing a combination of both. If we have a late night flight, and we know we are going to arrive at our destination after dark, we usually try to book in advance using Agoda. In our experience, they tend to have the best prices on private room accomodations. If we know that there is a large holiday in the country we are visiting, we try to book plane tickets or bus tickets in advance so that they don’t sell out or become overly expensive. However, Sapa is something we didn’t pre-book at all, and it worked perfectly that way.
We bought our overnight bus tickets ($30 round trip/per person) at our hotel in Hanoi just a few days before we were planning on going to Sapa. And we didn’t book anything else until we were actually in Sapa. We were unsure of this at first, but we soon realized it is completely unnecessary to book anything in advance in northern Vietnam.This was our first time on an overnight bus, and both of us were impressed with how well we slept. The “beds” were not spacious, but at least they were comfortable.When we arrived in Sapa the next day, we were greeted by a crowd of people trying to get us to stay in their hotel, or to go trekking with them. All of them claimed they had the cheapest prices, and nicest place.Well, low and behold, this is how we met Susu. She was so spunky that we immediately fell in love with her even though we were skeptical at first. We learned later that day that we were very lucky to have met her. She is a very popular guide because she is honest, hilarious, and good with foreigners. She speaks English and French. She is so popular that other guides try to claim to be her! This is the real Susu, memorize her face if you are going to Sapa. After walking around and looking at several hotels, Susu insisted that we should come with her and she will show us a good, cheap hotel. The first hotel she brought us to was $3/night/person. But we prefer to have our own space instead of sharing a bunk room with other people. We said no to that hotel and then she brought us to another one. We liked this hotel and decided to stay. It was $8/night for a private room and bathroom, and free wifi. They also let us check in upon our arrival at 10am, and they offer motorcycle rentals for $4/day (yes, we took advantage of this!).The room was spacious, and it had a great view. After dropping our backpacks off in our room, we headed out to explore the quaint town of Sapa. One of the things you have to get used to in Sapa is all of the women trying to sell you things, or attempting to make you “pinkie promise” that you will hire them as your guide to their village. And this is where knowing Susu comes in very handy. All you have to say is “Sorry, I already promised Susu that I would go with her.” They will unhappily walk away and not bother you anymore. It works great. If the men try to hassle you into renting their motorbike? Sorry, we already rented one at our hotel.
After rounding up a few maps of the Sapa area, we jumped on our bike and headed off to explore. We headed to the gas station to fill up ($0.62/liter)! We had a great time riding through the curvy roads up the mountain to the waterfall, and then back down and through the villages.
We bumped into these guys a few times, and when we saw them drinking coffee near a raod we were riding on, we decided to join them . Both Jared and I agree that one of the coolest aspects of traveling is the people we get to meet. We promised Susu that we would go trekking with her the next day. She had a few other people joining along, and it made it even better.
We woke up nice and early the next morning to grab some breakfast and coffee before trekking 8 kilometers through the mountains to Susu’s village. We were so thankful that the sun came out, but since we hadn’t seen much of the sun prior to this day, we completely forgot to wear sunscreen.
We walked through dirt roads, and winding trails behind Susu. She was very informative about her culture, the surroundings, and any other questions. And if she didn’t know the answer, she wouldn’t bluff, she’d promptly state “I donno.”
We passed some children along the road. Why they weren’t in school, and what they were doing is still a mystery. This pig’s belly was literally dragging the ground. After trekking for 3.5 hours, we finally made it to Susu’s village! We went inside Susu’s daughter-in-law’s home and met her family.
Lunch was prepared for us and when it was finished, we dug in. We had fried tofu, stir-fried chicken, and rice. It was delicious. After our meal, they brought out “happy water.”Jared got to borrow Susu’s traditional pipe for one puff of tobacco.
Since our time in Sapa was limited, we didn’t stay the night with Susu’s family. Instead, we said our goodbyes, and snapped a few more pictures of Susu’s village before heading out via motorbike taxi.
We explored the local side of Sapa the following day before catching our overnight bus back to Hanoi.
The bus on the way home was very specious, and other than getting caught in a 4-hour long traffic jam, we made it safely back in Hanoi where we were going to catch a flight down to Ho Chi Minh City. Stay tuned to hear about our time in Ho Chi Minh!