Category Archives: Vietnam

Prestigious

The feeling to know that you can call a foreign country home is truly a wonderful thing. I call South Africa home and now I can add Vietnam to this prestigious list. How exactly do you know if you can call a country home? Well, there are a few unwritten rules that apply. First, upon entering Vietnam, I honestly didn’t feel like a tourist or a visitor, I felt like I was returning home to a place I knew. Secondly, I have a whole network of local friends and colleagues here that I keep in touch with on a consistent basis. If I ever came to Vietnam on a whim, I’d be completely comfortable because I have really good company here who always make sure I’m welcomed no matter the circumstance. The Vietnamese are some of the nicest people on the face of the planet. That list of mine is indeed prestigious, with only two countries that I’ve inducted (not including the USA).

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My time in Vietnam was short and sweet. This was only a pitstop between my European Excursion and my next major venture into Nepal. Saying goodbye to Quyen, Duc, Duong, Anna, the students, and everyone else wasn’t too bad. I know I’ll return again someday but Quyen made me promise to stay longer next time and I plan to keep that promise! She’s still as awesome as when I first met her last year.

Even though I wasn’t an official volunteer here at the college, I still felt like one. The volunteers here told me they felt like I was part of the group since I was always around. I usually spent my free time just hanging out on their floor introducing them to games like “Werewolf” and “$hithead”. There were many times where they offered me their coupons for the PR restaurant when they weren’t using them. Thanks for those, guys. On one of my last nights, Quyen and Duc took Felix (Germany) and I out for some more Vietnamese cuisine. One of these foods was a duck fetus. It sounds gross…and it is!

What you do is you boil an egg that has a baby duck in it. Then you gently crack the top of the egg and drink the fluids from the inside. Then, you scoop out the wet soggy baby duck, feathers and all, and take a bite out of it. Quyen scooped a gigantic piece for me and spoon fed me because I was too hesitant.

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As soon as the duck head entered my mouth, I gagged instantly. Felix’s eyes were watering while Quyen and Duc thought it was hilarious! Onlooking locals sitting nearby were also enjoying the show. Duc scooped out some of the yolk part for me, which I was able to eat. I still gagged and gawked from that, but I felt like I could feel a piece of that wet soggy baby duck swimming inside my stomach. The taste wasn’t horrible, but it was definitely a mental game I wasn’t prepared for. Definitely one of the worst things I’ve ever tried thus far. (I’ll be trying other bizarre things later in Nepal.)

I packed my belongings and said my goodbyes to the volunteers, students, and staff. Thanks for the welcome return everyone! I’ll be back again.

On Route to Nepal

So here’s what’s happening now. For the next six weeks, I’ll be living in Nepal teaching English via IVHQ, my regular volunteering agency I have used frequently through the years. This is my sixth country where I’m volunteering somewhere completely new and different: Costa Rica, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania, Vietnam, and now Nepal. I only started this blog during the South Africa season. I like to think of this as season six. Each season takes place in a completely new location with a new cast of interesting characters from all over the world or in this case, volunteers. Before each season I really don’t know what to expect as far as who I’ll meet and where I’ll stay. Usually though, I have met some pretty awesome people that I still keep in touch with to this day, even volunteers all the way back from season one (Costa Rica). And in typical Sellers fashion, I plan on getting my hands dirty, going above and beyond, experiencing new and crazy things which I will definitely share on this blog.

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Getting There Was a Giant Mess

In order to get to Kathmandu, Nepal, I must fly from HCMC to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then from there to Kathmandu, Nepal. By the way, if you aren’t sure, Nepal is a small landlocked country situated north of India and south of Tibet and China. Everything was going smooth, until my layover in Kuala Lumpur…

Entry into Nepal requires a visa in which costs $100 USD for a 90 day stay. You can get those upon arrival. However, they won’t accept credit cards, debit cards, or their own currency, the Nepalese rupee. My plan was to just get money out of an ATM and exchange it at the airport. I had some time to spare at the Kuala Lumpur airport and checked out an ATM to use, but my card didn’t work. Odd…it worked just yesterday? I tried a different ATM and same thing–invalid card. What gives? My phone doesn’t work outside of the US so I couldn’t call my bank to find out why my card wasn’t working and besides, it was 2am at home; bank’s closed. I looked online for reasons why my card won’t work and there are three possible reasons: insufficient funds, the bank blocked the card because of suspicious transactions, or the strip on the back of the card was demagnetized. I checked my account online and all my money was still there and I told my bank before I left to allow my card to be used anywhere until I tell them so. The only option left was the demagnetizing issue. I had brought a spare card with me just in case my current card was lost or stolen. I tried the new card and still, no luck. I’d figure I try again at the airport in Kathmandu.

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That One Time I Was Able to Sneak Out the Kathmandu Airport Without A Visa

Upon entering the Kathmandu airport, I immediately searched for an ATM in the immigrations lot. Of course the only ATM was out of order. I asked the cashier at the money exchange if there was another ATM and he responded “Outside the airport.” I was trapped though, I couldn’t leave the immigration area without a visa and without getting through security, and customs, and baggage claim! I went for it anyway and went past the immigrations and immediately a security officer came and stopped me. I told him my plea and he also told me the only ATM was outside, but didn’t give me any further directions on actually getting past all this security without the proper papers. I pressed on anyways. From prior experience in unorganized airports, the key is to act like you know what you’re doing, act like you know where you’re going, and speak in English really fast to confuse your opponents. It worked! I waltzed right past the visa counter, right past the security, right through the metal detector, and a few minutes later I was outside the airport without a visa and no questions! I literally went past all those long lines and dipped right through. I found an ATM and was able to take out the rupees I needed to convert into USD. Now how do I get back in? I just went through the way I came. I had to go past all the security again an even go up the escalator that only went down. I finally was able to get my visa, but the way I was able to escape the airport without one was a little strange. Get your act together Nepal! A crazy person could have gone through there.

Now with my visa and luggage in tact, I was approached by a man holding a sign that had my name on it. “IVHQ?” I asked him. He responded yes and I proceeded to follow him to his van past all of the taxi drivers practically begging for me to get a taxi instead. “You want to do trekking or safari?” the locals would ask me as I walked past them. “I just got here man!”

There were a couple of scammers who grabbed my small bag from me, walked three meters to the van and placed my bag inside and then said “Tip me please.” Instantly I had flashbacks to Morocco, a place where if you get any help from locals, even if you don’t ask for it, they will tell you to tip them. Just to see what he said, I asked him “How much should I tip you?”

“20 American”, he said.

I laughed at him. “You’re out of your mind.”

I reached for my wallet and pulled out one American dollar, which is still too much. It was mostly for him just to go away. “That’s all I have”, I told him…which was a fib of course. Looking back, I shouldn’t have given him anything. I asked the real IVHQ drivers “Why didn’t you intervene at all?” They told me because they didn’t want to start any trouble with the locals. Makes sense I guess.

It was 8:30pm in Kathmandu and I was here and ready for the next chunk of this global adventure to begin! I can’t wait to tell you all about it. 🙂

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The HC Emcee

If I could describe the new batch of volunteers here in one word, I would describe them as “squirrelly” . They’re a squirrelly bunch. Some are here, some are there, some are all over the place, but usually you can find them at one of the many backpacker pubs in District 1. If not there, they’re somewhere a little more expensive having the times of their lives! They are a savvy bunch of people that I enjoyed and spent a lot of time with here.

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But first things first, I MUST go to the US Embassy to add some more pages to my passport. I had the option of adding 24 or 48 pages, both for the same price of about $82. My passport expires in three years and it took me seven years to fill this bad boy, so I thought 24 pages would suffice until then. (I did a lot of traveling before I ever began blogging!) But now with that taking care of, I resumed my usual teaching duties alongside Duc.

It was a little odd introducing myself to the volunteers here. I had to explain that even though I wasn’t part of the Green Lion organization like they all were and that I wasn’t staying in the dorms, I would still be helping out the school teaching whenever they needed me to.

“I volunteered here last year and decided to visit again!”, I would always say.

There are quite a few of them and there’s a handful that made an impression on me, including a few even newer ones that arrived a few days after I returned. One night I went out to get some Indian food with Anand (India), Josie (US), Marissa (Canada), and a few others. Anand has been all over the world and has been wandering where ever he feels like at that moment! I’d say the most down-to-earth of this bunch. Josie and Marissa are close friends that met here in Vietnam. They’ve been here for over a month already and have plans on heading north in Vietnam after their time here is up. Marissa also writes a blog very similar to my own. She even has her own bucket-list which is pretty much the same idea as my personal ATLAS. You can find her website here. That same night, we went across the street to a pub to join up with a few other volunteers who just so happened to be in the area. Another standout is Aaron (US). He hails from California and is soaking up his first big trip out of the US. He even extended his trip from just a month to just before Christmas! Smart move I’d say.

Later on I met a few of the fresh meat volunteers who just arrived. Naykul (India/Australia), Becca (Canada), Roos (The Netherlands), and a few new faces. Then you have Pablo (Mexico), Sarah (Aus), Maddie (Aus), and Norris (Netherlands). There really are a lot more and all of them were very friendly and here for the right reasons. This group was completely different from my original Vietnam group but still a great crew! I could talk about all of them for miles but then this would end up being a very long post.

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One evening, my friend Duong invited me to her home for a homemade dinner. She lives about 15 minutes away from my district in a simple, yet cool urban style apartment. She made rice, chicken, salad, and mushrooms with seaweed in it. The chicken mix had every part of the chicken in it; head, beak, talons, and all. She did a great job and everything tasted really good! Thanks Duong!

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Duong is in charge of the garden project at the college. She ran the idea by the principal and he agreed with the prospects of it. Many other people she’s met have been helping her turn her idea into a reality and it’s shaping up to look quite nice.

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The garden is situated on the roof of the college above the classrooms where they I teach English. Some of the students in those classes can speak exceptionally well and some of them can barely understand a single word. Teaching another language takes patience and practice. I’ve been speaking slower and have been speaking proper English lately. As a matter of fact I’ll be teaching English for the remainder of my trip so I may say my words a little bit differently when I come back home. The students here told me they understand the American English accent better than the Australian and British ones, and I couldn’t help but agree with them. My English accent is pretty flat and straight-forward for the most part.

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Being in Vietnam again brought upon a wave of nostalgia. My old room used to be the sole boys room, now the girls have taken over.

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The food still tastes pretty good and PR restaurant is pretty much the same as when I left (minus the ice cream stand). I had a great tenure here last year and was able to give some of the new kids a lot of advice concerning excursions and things to do over the weekends. A lot were impressed with my Vietnam pictures and I was glad to have motivated them to get out there and explore!

Much of my time in Vietnam has been teaching and hanging out with the locals and volunteers here, so not much to report to you all. I was able to relax and unwind in preparation for my next venture into a brand new country:

Nepal!!!

I’ll tell you all the game plan next.

Saigon’s Very Special Guest

Remember that impending problem I had in Iceland? Well, it’s a very real problem now. My passport is completely full! I forgot about it up until my last couple of days in Europe. I know the Vietnam Visa takes up an entire passport page, of which I don’t have a whole blank page to fill. There is one sole stamp on the last page, from Spain, that is screwing me over. Why couldn’t they just squeeze that stamp on another page where there was just enough room?

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Look at how much space is being wasted…

As bad as it sounds, I was still calm. I had sort of a plan. I made an appointment online for a visit to the United States Embassy in Ho Chi Minh for more passport pages in a few days. I printed my appointment as proof just in case the Vietnamese customs gave me a hassle. I also read that it may be possible to use the back page with all the government type on it. Or maybe I could convince the patrol to just cover that little Spain stamp? Or maybe I can carefully rip off my old Vietnam stamp? Look at all the unorthodox options I have! I was gambling on at least one of them working. Worst case scenario: I get sent back to Germany or even America for that matter.

I had a flight through United Emirates Airlines (my favorite airline) to Dubai and from there to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. For Vietnam, you have to apply online in advance for permission to enter the country. I already had my permission slip filled out and ready. The customs agent at the airport asked for my slip and passport and then I took a seat, waiting in nervous anticipation. One by one I heard a Vietnamese lady calling out butchering names of foreigners to come and retrieve their passport, now with a new valid visa stamp. I fully expected someone to call my name, telling me that my passport is full and I can’t enter the country.

“Mista Daneel Sailars”, said the lady.

That must be me. I walked to her window like a student getting called to the principal’s office because he did something wrong.

“$45”, she said.

My God, they’re actually letting me go through!

I happily gave her my $45, received my passport and took off before the could change their mind. I flipped through the pages to see where they put the new stamp; smack-dab in the middle of my passport covering a bunch of other stamps from a bunch of other countries! I think that’s illegal but I ain’t complaining! That weight was lifted and I was officially here again, back in Saigon!

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It was hot and humid, just like I remembered. And upon landing, it smelled like Vietnam. I can’t describe that scent but it’s the same unique scent I remember from fifteen months ago. It’s indescribable, kind of like the one-of-a-kind smell I have whenever I go to South Africa; unique to its own country and surprisingly comforting for me. And just like before, there were motorbikes…motorbikes everywhere! I wasn’t staying at the school this time, but instead a hotel within close walking distance called Thinh Thanh. For a ridiculously cheap price, I had a cozy room with air-con, wifi, a hot shower and a big ol’ bed all to myself. The outside of the hotel looked sketchy but everything inside worked. It was late already, so I settled in and went to sleep.

My aim for coming back to Saigon is to visit everyone back at the college I volunteered at last year. I kept in touch with a lot of locals here and informed most of the them of my return. Quyen is still the school’s travel advisor and helped organized my return. The principal gave me the title as the college’s special guest, which meant I was free to roam around the school grounds and help with teaching classes again. I brought my old blue shirt for that reason!

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I was happy to be back! I went to the Practical Restaurant to eat and there two of my former students came to say hi, Duong and Macu! I put a status on Facebook letting Saigon know that I was back for awhile. Duong has been hard at work and transforming the school roof into a garden and Macu has been busy with choreographing dances and keeping busy with classes. Next up, my former student Đức came to join me for grub. Đức is no longer a student but now a full fledged teacher here at the college and I would be teaching alongside him during my time here. The class he teaches is called Culinary English. The students learn culinary words and lingo, but in English.

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This school’s dormitories were the living quarters for me and my volunteer group here last year. I wonder what the new volunteers are like? I went upstairs to the dormitory floor and walked around. There was no one up there. The floor looked a little different though. There were more rooms being used and the Green Lion office was all decked out and looked like the new hangout spot. A few volunteers started to arrive later on that evening. Some thought I was a new volunteer but I introduced myself and told them I came independently and was in their shoes a year ago. So far this group was nothing like my original group, but the good kind of different and really nice people! (I’ll talk more about them in the next post).

Đức and I have kept in touch ever since I left Vietnam the first time and planned on hanging out quite a bit. He wanted to show me local spots that I may have missed before and try some different Vietnamese Cuisine besides phở and bahn mi’s. We went to small eateries, where tourists didn’t exist, and went down on some grub! First up was “Sủi cảo”, which is meat dumplings in broth and marinated pork with shrimp added to each dumpling. It cost $1.75. It was a pain to take out the sole shrimp in each dumpling so I mustered and eventually just ate them with the shrimp inside.

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Next we rode on his motorbike to a park nearby where there was a stall serving “Gỏi khô bò”, which is beef jerky salad with green papaya and cracker that costs a measly 75¢! It was really good!

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Finally we rode to yet another small local eatery and had “Cháo sườn”, which is rice porridge with pork rib. That threw me back 75¢. The food here was stupid cheap and tastes great! It’s hard to beat a three course meal for under $4.

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Upon returning back to the school, I went to visit Quyen at her office and saw Anna and her daughter there. Anna was one of the coordinators of Green Lion when I was here last year and she’s till as gracious and angelic as before. It was so great to see them both!

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I also ran into Ms. Chi and the head of the hotel service students. Both invited me to a special celebration for the hotel class, who just completed their coursework for the year. “Of course I’ll come!” The attire for the party was red and black. I didn’t pack too many clothes but luckily I had a red polo shirt and a black t-shirt I could wear underneath. The party was great because many of the students and teachers I helped out last year were there and they were really surprised to see me again! I was glad to see them.

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Vietnam has welcomed me back with open arms and the school has been great so far with letting me pick up right where I left off. I already did a lot of the excursions last year so I didn’t feel the need to travel around Vietnam this time. My priority was to just spend time with all the local friends I made here and help the students with their English anytime they needed me. So far no complaints, I love it here!

More to come!

Thanks For The Memories

This is it guys. My last post here in Southeast Asia before I set off for the next half of this extraordinary adventure around the world. I can also finally say that I have accomplished something that most backpackers traveling throughout Southeast Asia for a long period of time have not done. And that is, not getting sick! I got motion sick a few times but I can’t really help that. I’m talking no colds, no coughs, no fevers, no vomiting, no stuffy noses, none of that! I had a great run in Asia. Here’s how I spent my last couple of days…

The day after Rob and I went biking, we didn’t do too much besides relax and eat all day. Us, along with Lulu, Schunk, and Toni went out to a Mexican restaurant near pub street that night. Leticia was supposed to meet us but unfortunately she was stuck at her volunteering organization. I have been craving some good Mexican food ever since I left the States and this restaurant didn’t disappoint! Afterwards, Rob went back to the hostel but the rest of us stayed and enjoyed 50 cent draft beers and pizza. I taught them how to play a fun card game I learned in South Africa last year called $hithead, which they caught onto quick and even beat me in a few times. Soon, we called it a night and went back.

The next night, as Lulu and Toni went to Angkor Wat, Rob, Schunk, and I pretty much ate, played cards, and lounged all day. It was exhausting! ;). Once the girls came back, we all went upstairs to the Sandbar for one final night of fun before everyone departed in the morning.

Rob was supposed to leave two days ago, but never could time his buses and flights properly, but this morning he would be leaving for sure. I never met any other person in Southeast Asia or even at home that could eat as much as I can! Whenever we both finished off a meal at a restaurant, we always decided it was a great idea to both order another full dinner! It was easy to be a pig when I had a buddy who was a pig just like me. And ever since we’ve met in Phnom Penh, we have been on the same page with everything. He’s been a really great traveling buddy and someone I know I’ll visit in the future. He was on his way back to Holland for a couple of weeks before he started up a year of Uni in London. Safe travels home Sean Connery! I say that because every word that started with an “s” he pronounced with a “sh”, sounding like Sean Connery. Next, I said goodbye to the three German siblings. I literally only met them a couple of days ago but we all hit it off very fast. They were on their way to Bangkok and straight to the southern islands. I’ve already traveled that route so I was able to give them some useful tips. They are frequent visitors of Oktoberfest so they told me whenever I’m up there, to let them know! This is a picture of Lulu, Schunk, and Toni below.

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All of my friends were gone and I was now by myself. I could easily meet more people around but I chose to recluse myself because I had a few things I needed to do. Respond to emails, laundry, and most importantly, catch up on my blogs. For my Facebook friends, you may have noticed that I have been posting more frequently the last few days than usual. Thats because I wanted to be entirely caught up before I start the next phase of this trip in Africa.

I’ve met tons of unique and awesome people in each of the four main countries (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia) that I’ve been to. Even though I left home alone, I was never, ever alone here. Lucy, the volunteers, teachers, and students in Saigon. Kimmie and Ibriham in Hanoi. Alison, Abbie, Tristan, Megan, Claire, Alys, Josephine, Si, Meg, and Lauryn in Laos. All the crazy Brits in Chiang Mai. Björn, Kevin, and Viola in Pai. Clint in Bangkok. Leonoor, Thom, Jack, Kevin, and the two German friends in the islands. Rob, Leticia, Luke, Schunk, Lulu, Toni, Djoeke, Lianne, and Other Dan in Cambodia. It was them and a host of other random zany backpackers and locals alike that made this trip even better than what I could have imagined! I’m sorry if I’m forgetting anyone significant. I met SO many people out here!

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And to my main traveling buddies that were there with me through the long haul: Lucy, Björn, Kevin, Viola, and Rob. You guys are all great! Thanks for sharing in the memories.

Initially, Malaysia and Indonesia were supposed to be a part of the Southeast Asian excursion, but I spent so much time in each country I visited that I couldn’t fit those two in. I’d have to save them for a different trip in the future. I spent my last two days completely resetting myself in preparation for the next three months where I will cross continents and go back to Africa.

🙂

Where Heaven Meets Earth

Sapa is a region to the northwest of Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s an area dominated by mountains of lush and green, with creeks of moss and stones. Most of the mountains possess perfectly ridged rice terraces along it’s slopes, crafted by the villagers and farmers who live there. Sapa, also known as Heaven’s Gate, is an area of extraordinary beauty and mesmerizing landscapes that will forever bathe in the clouds’ mists. It’s the next and last stop on this Vietnam trip and a perfect way to cap off this underrated country.

As soon as Lucy and I were dropped off at the Ethnic travel agency from our more-than-amazing Halong Bay cruise, we immediately had a taxi waiting for us for departure to the nearby bus station. From there, we had to endure an 11 hour overnight bus ride to the Lao Cai province of Vietnam, where Sapa is located. We took a sleeper bus, and unlike the cozy sleeper bus we took to Mui Ne a few weeks earlier, this one, particularly for me, was a rough ride! Not only was it humid, either I’ve grown a few inches or this bus was a bit smaller. Sleeper buses are not made for tall people, and I don’t even consider myself that tall; barely six feet, if that. Lucy and I were placed all the way in the back where you had to share space with three other strangers. There was a local lady who slept next to Lucy who kept elbowing her in the back. There was some dude down below who kept playing the same annoying song on repeat for a straight hour. I learned the words by the time he turned it off. Yes, it wasn’t very cozy but that’s okay, it was cheap and we were able to sleep most of the trip and before you knew it, the next morning we were in Lao Cai! From there another taxi was waiting for us, that took us to our hostel in Sapa Town, where we could eat breakfast and shower up.

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There is where we reunited with Jurre and An, who took the overnight train instead of the sleeper bus. There, we also met other travelers from around the world who would make the hike through Sapa with us, including three guys from Catelonia, Spain and another couple from somewhere else in Spain, I forget! Lucy and I would only be doing a two-day trek, while the other would do three. But once we all got acquainted, our tour guide led us through town for the beginning of the long hike!

Sapa Town
Sapa Town
Sapa, the town where toddlers ride motorbikes as soon as they can walk...
Sapa, the town where toddlers ride motorbikes as soon as they can walk…

Along through town, a troupe of local women and girls garbed in black woven clothes with purple and white lace around the edges, began to follow us. Initially I thought they wanted to sell us things, which is usually the case when locals walk up to me, but instead they just wanted to make the hike with us and guide us along the way (Later on they would try to sell us things). These woman are called Black Monks and they are one of many different tribes that live here in Sapa. I guess it’s pretty common for the Black Monks to follow tourists around, to get a more authentic feel. Once we made it through the town, we eventually made it the start of the wild hike, where we witnessed a dreamlike view of the Sapa valley!

Sapa
Sapa

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Just thinking about it now, it seemed unreal. A valley filled with a rich green, as far as the eye could see, sheltered in a blanket of thick mist. During the morning, the sun shone brightly but as the day progressed, the sun’s rays individually punctured through the clouds. Each hour of the day produced a fantastic backdrop for our hike. Today’s hike was about five or six hours long that took us through the wide landscapes of the slopes. It wasn’t a difficult hike at all, as a matter of fact, it was very enjoyable because we saw the region from many different angles and saw plenty of different wildlife, including wild baby piglets scampering the fields and patches of dragonflys roaming about!

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An and Jurre with a handful of Black Monks
An and Jurre with a handful of Black Monks

After a few hours of a sweaty hike, we made it to a shop where we were served more rice and noodles, just like every other place in Vietnam. No matter, it always tasted delicious and it always got the job done. As we ate, the Black Monks patiently waited outside for us, as they enjoyed their own lunch.

This is one of the "main" Black Monks, looking into the distance as she enjoys her meal.
This is one of the “main” Black Monks, looking into the distance as she enjoys her meal.

As we continued out trek, we passed through a village with a dozen kids just playing about, minding their own business. I had a sack of snacks in my bag for the hike, so I thought I would give it to the youngsters instead. They loved it! An gave them balloons she had on her. They loved those too!

Lucy and I with the kiddos.
Lucy and I with the kiddos.

Soon after they ran about to show their parents the gifts they just received from a bunch of strangers.

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After a little more hiking, we reached our tour guides house and stayed there for the night. She actually lives in the village and does treks almost everyday as part of her job. We were all extremely dirty, so instead of the shower, I opted to take a bath in the river. On the way I saw some locals soaping up in the creek and the water looked fresh enough, so I thought I would give it a try. It was cold but it felt great! I made it back in time for a feast at the house where one of the cooks there gave us “Happy Wine”, which is just another name for a certain kind of Vietnamese booze! We called it a night. The next day we would begin another trek through this dreamlike country.

The house we stayed at for the night.
The house we stayed at for the night.
We watched this spider trap and eat so many pesky bugs during our dinner. Thanks for protecting us from those nasty mosquitos!
We watched this spider trap and eat so many pesky bugs during our dinner. Thanks for protecting us from those nasty mosquitos!

We started off in the morning, and continued our long, muddy hike forward through the valley where I was able to nab more photos.

Rice fields.
Rice fields.

20130726-182627.jpgIt started to rain pretty heavily. At one point I accidentally split up from my group…or should I say, they split up from me! What happened was, there was this muddy, slippery slope we came to that we had to get down. I say it was about 50 feet long and a bit steep. I was always at the front of the pack and went down the hill first. The tour guide decided it was too dangerous, AFTER I had already went down, and decided to lead the group on an alternate route. So now what? I just continued on further on my lonesome. Well not totally alone, one of the Black Monks joined me and came with me to make sure I didn’t get lost. I think this was also a good thing to happen because eventually I caught up with two elderly woman who were struggling once we were in the ridiculously muddy bamboo forest. I was able to help them most of the way. After about a half hour or so, An and Jurre who were also split up, merged with me and we hiked to the waterfalls where the Black Monk told us to wait for the rest of my group. We all rejoined and continued.

I have a faster than average walking pace and always found myself at the far front of the group. Instead of constantly waiting for them to catch up, I decided to go forth and take shots of them from afar.

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My pace was so fast that I eventually lost them, AGAIN, and made it to another village where I waited for them for lunch. Here I was bombarded by a different tribe of women called the “Red Dao”. These ladies shave their eyebrows and most of their hair and wear big red hats that look like pillows and garments with red decorations in them. As soon as the Red Dao seen me walking towards their village, they surrounded me and tried to sell me things I don’t want. I had to chit chat with them for awhile since I was alone and had no idea where to hide. It got to the point where I had to throw my fellow hiking buddies under the bus. “I have no money but my friends who are coming are very rich! You can ask them!” I said. The plan worked as I saw my group coming along and the Dao ladies waltzed right to them! Mwahahaha!

Lucy and I enjoyed one last lunch with the group before she and I set off to say goodbye and leave Sapa.

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Jurre, An, and all the rest of them would continue they’re hike to another village for the night. Lucy and I headed back to the hotel in Sapa Town where we took a sleeper bus back to Hanoi. This bus was worse than the other but whatever, it was stupid cheap! I just could never get cozy.

Once we got back to Hanoi in the middle of the night, we kind of struggled to find a hostel (most hostels aren’t open at five in the morning) but we eventually found one and passed out. Earlier in the week, before we went to Halong Bay, we decided where we would go once we got back in Hanoi.

We booked a plane for the next day, to a landlocked country that neighbors Vietnam called Laos. We have nothing booked or planned for the country, as we decided to go there on the whim. We’ll see how it all pans out!