27/5/07 23 °C
After an overnight journey on a "soft sleeper" train I arrived in Lao Cai a town high in the north of Vietnam, right on the Chinese border. An hour bus drive through terraced rice paddies and along a very windy road lead me to the magical mountain town of Sapa. Sapa has only recently been rediscovered and is now firmly on the tourist map and it is easy to see why. Immediately I noticed the cooler temperatures and had to find a jumper hidden deep in the bottom of my pack. It was early morning so the valley was filled with mist....the whole place took on an almost spiritual feel. I opted to stay out of the main area, well off the well worn "Lonely Planet track" . The Topas Ecolodge owned by a danish trekking company, recommended to me by a german couple I met at the street kids' cafe in Hanoi, has to be one of the gems of my travels to date. It is situated on the top of a hill deep in the Sapa valley. The lodge has panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and sitting on the balcony of my very own little bungalow I felt like I was on the edge of the world. Everything is made of natural materials...there are no televisions, phones, air-conditioners and lighting and warm water are supplied by individual solar systems. In the evening the path is lit with little lanterns so as to find your way along the rocky path. I loved the self sustainable nature of this place and the natural beauty took my breath away!!! It was run by a young Danish guy, an avid mountain climber, who after spending the last few years scaling the heights of the world's highest mountains found himself here in this wonderful place and decided to stay. What a place to hang up the old trekking boots for a while!. He was great company and we spent a number of evening on my balcony with a bottle of red wine recounting stories of our travels, listening to the geckos and watching the fireflies dance in the evening light. It was so wonderful just to be deep in nature and I too fell in love with this place. I did a number of treks to visit the local villages where the black Hmong and Red Dao ethnic minority people still live their life as they have always done, visited a local school, and had my first taste of a night out on vietnamese rice wine ( never again!!...ended up in a dark, rather seedy bar singing karoke with some very drunk Danes and Vietnamese who were belting out some of the cheesiest pop songs of all time in bad english!!). Sapa and in particular the Topas Ecolodge was one of the most charming places I have ever stayed....this is an area of Vietnam that I know I will return to in the future, a week did just not seem enough time...there is a certain magic here...a magic that connects you back to the simple things in life...to nature and to the world as it should be...
Love to you all,