Friday, September 15, 2006

Sa Pa

Sa PA Hotel View, originally uploaded by kathrynparry41.

Sa Pa

I arrived after an overnight train to the seedy boarder town of Lai Cai. It is over run with touts and degenerates and on exiting the station crowds of young men formed around me calling out the ever so familiar 'motto, motto to Sa Pa'.

Given the occurrences of the day before I ignored their pleas and boarded a mini bus bound for the mountains. As I got on the bus, I watched an English couple being duped out of 5 USD by a guy who said he would change their note into Dong for them and then swapping it for it for a counterfeit note, refusing to change the bill and denying their entry onto the bus until they paid him some more.

Dazed with sleep and in a desperate need for a toilet, I silently pleaded that the couple would give up the fight and accept the 5 USD theft and get on with it. The male said to ne ‘No one rips me off, no one’ and I believed him, despite being close to 60 he was incredibly tall and broad, reminding me of an army general. At last the driver relented and let them board the bus and we were off.

On arrival I was stunned with the sheer natural beauty of the place. The town was built in the 1920's by the French and has a distinct European feel to it. It is perched on top of a hill and has amazing views of Mount Fan Si Pan (Vietnam's highest peak).

I was soon approached by a lady from the Cat Cat hotel and she offered me a room for 8 USD (the cheapest they had) she tried to sell me a better room promising better views but given the room was absolutely spectacular I was quite content in the cheap room.

After checking in, I was greeting by two indigenous Hmong kids. They introduced themselves as Li and Aoi and said ‘you from Australia, G’day now don't you forget about me ok'. Confused and not understanding their intentions or how to treat the treats of 10 year olds I walked away a little intimidated and embarrassed to think that they could invoke some kind of fear within me. Was this normal?

Later in the day they came back to me again and repeated their earlier comment ' don’t you forget me, you remember me ok' and strangely proceeded to hug and kiss me and started saying 'you so pretty- but why so fat'.

I went for a walk to the Cat Cat village, inhabited by a Hmong tribe and hiked to a waterfall the day was unseasonably hot, the sun causing me to feel weak hiking what seemed like an eternity to the waterfall but the mountain air soothed the tensions that simply were Hanoi.

I spoke to some local women who told me that the men of the tribe all have girlfriends and wives at the same time. The ladies said that the women do everything; from selling things at markets, to making cloths and raising the kids, I guess some things are the same wherever you are (that was a joke).

I sleep well that night exhausted from my mountainous trek and spent the next day lying in the sun and reading the masterpiece that is so eloquently titles ‘The Leopard’ in a hammock overlooking the mountains. Bliss.

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