Saturday, October 29, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

The Great 14km Walk

It’s sunny and bright today. We woke up to promising weather that was to carry on the entire day. The skies have just begun to open up revealing the gorgeous sun! We rented a jeep, a seriously beaten up jeep that requires a few steps on the brakes before it works! A local driver brought us to Thac Bac waterfalls also known as Silver Waterfalls that cascaded 100m from above. It was a pleasant sight, nothing to shout about. We headed further north west arriving at Tram Ton Pass sitting between two mountains with Sapa on one side and Lao Chai on the other. Standing at the pass reminded us of views at Mount Kinabalu, Sabah. Towering hills continued endlessly and disappearing into a glimmer of shadows into the background. It’s a spectacular view indeed!

Thac Bac Falls

From Tram Ton Pass we scooted back to Sapa to head towards Lao Cai to Ta Phin village about 14km from Sapa. This village is home to Red Dzao’s the other minority group around this region. The ride brought us through bumpy and hilly roads and down steep narrow roads finally into the village. Spotting a few Red Dzao women from afar, they came running towards our jeep and as it came to a halt they surrounded our jeep instantly asking us to buy something from them. It wasn’t a very welcoming gesture, but we just had to be patient (for Terence, VERY patient) and maneuver our way out. Our jeep left us there as we decide to walk back to Sapa after the visit. The Red Dzao’s soon became out personal escorts as 6-8 of them persistently followed us as we walked into the village. There was no peace, and soon they started chatting up to us. Surprisingly their English was much better than some locals we bumped into in Hanoi. They told us that they learned how to speak in English from conversing with tourist – fast learners indeed!

Ta Phin village is very spread out with huts everywhere, there wasn’t much going on except for some children playing and farmers at the field. Walking up the village, we ended up at a dead end where a cave stood. Children came running to us with torch lights asking us to go into the cave for a look. Apparently the cave can eventually lead you to China! Can you believe it?! They might be pulling our legs for all you know but even locals beckoned to enter the cave. Needless to say we made a u-turn and started our 14km journey on foot to Sapa.

The same way the jeep came, the terrain back was similar. Dirt road and gravel, very rarely the roads were cemented. The first 10km was beautiful, with no touts following us we just made our way out passing Black Hmong huts, paddy fields, dodging animals like buffaloes, pigs, dogs and chickens. Uphill was a sweater, even with the weather at 20c, we were sweating from the “workout”! Views along the journey made it less strenuous as we stopped to take pictures and just admire pristine views of tastefully crafted paddy plots.

As mentioned the first 10km was a great walk, but the last 4km back to Sapa was back breaking. After 3 hours of non-stop walking we were ready to sit down for a hot bowl of Pho. Thankfully we had a wholesome breakfast of toast and fruits – but it wasn’t enough to last us throughout the day. We were starving and our legs were about to detach from our bodies. Tempted as we were to hail down a motorbike to bring us back to Sapa we pushed ourselves on. 130pm was when we started walking out from Ta Phin, we arrived at the familiar Sapa town square at 5pm! We made it with sore legs, butts and a seriously growling stomach. There was nothing else we wanted for dinner except for Pho! Steaming hot broth was the best remedy. Again we had barbeque meat on skewers as sides. Delish!

A nice hot shower and an apple crumble to end the day – sweet dreams, we’re off for a nice long night of zzz…

By Deborah Chan


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