As always, the journey to my next destination was an interesting one. We started in a taxi resembling a clown car, with both me and Karlee crammed into a single seat in the back, surrounded by mounds of backpacks. It was funny because for the first 10 minutes we were the only ones in the car so I didn’t understand why I had to sit on her lap. But then the crowd arrived…
We then hopped on our night bus which was…entertaining. Karlee had already taken a Vietnamese night bus (giving a positive review) so we had high standards of comfort for this one. Ha.
We were dispersed into our seats (kind of like pods), enclosures where Asians can spread their legs out and sleep comfortably. Not white people. I could fit about half a calf length into my pod so sat with my knees up, my backpack on my lap and the massive quilt they gave me taking up the remaining space in the pod. I soon realized the reasoning for the excessively large quilt when they turned on the air conditioning to a temperature battling Edmonton winter.
I (along with the 6 other white people on the bus) spent the first 10 minutes of the journey rearranging myself in my pod to a position bringing at least a small level of comfort. And then we went clubbing. Flashes of red, green and blue lighting, screens playing music videos and weird Vietnamese techno beats blasting over the speakers (ummm…).
They eventually toned down the club vibe and switched to a more mellow Vietnamese love ballad-type genre to encourage sleep time. This lasted about 2 hours before they turned the lights back on and the locals piled out of the bus for a snack. I got out my ear plugs and eye mask and managed to (somewhat…but not really) sleep the rest of the night before they returned to blasting (literally blasting. I nearly peed myself) their Vietnamese club beats again at 6 am. I figured this wake-up call meant we had arrived at our destination. Nope. We were still over an hour away.
I put on some T-Swift, stuck in my headphones and managed to fall back asleep, only to be woken up by a small Vietnamese man standing in the aisle in front of me, repeating “Lady! Lady! You stay my hotel!” Apparently we had arrived.
A kind English man shooed the hotel peddler off the bus and we packed up our courage and eye masks, preparing ourselves for the mob scene outside the bus (in Sapa, everyone is a celebrity). The scene outside the bus door was probably one of my favourite moments of my trip thus far. A swarm of ladies, all less than 5 feet tall, all dressed in traditional hill-tribe gear, hair done up in Flinestone-like styles, hands stained indigo blue, crying babies strapped to their backs, yelling “Lady! You come with me! Lady! I take you trekking! Lady! You want homestay?!”
While definitely hilarious, this was a bit much to handle first thing in the morning, half asleep, standing in the rain. We grabbed our backpacks and attempted to distance ourselves from the morning’s hill-tribe population. We managed to escape the swarm but were still followed by a group of five women and a new throng of hotel peddlers shoving pictures of beds and promises of wifi in our faces. We stopped for breakfast.
The hotel peddlers disappeared but our Five New Friends sat across the street, smiling, staring, and patiently waiting while we ate. We purposefully took a long time to finish breakfast (like, a really long time), but alas, our Five New Friends were persistent. We decided to test them, see who spoke the best English, see who told the best jokes, and see who offered the best price. This was all quite entertaining as the ladies were hilarious and even helped us pick a hotel with a “funny man” working the front desk.
In the end, we agreed to do a 2-day trek and homestay starting the following day with a 19-year old girl named Mu (pronounced Moo) as she was funny, had an adorable baby, and promised us a non-touristy experience (and a free change purse. Score).
For the remainder of the day we napped, relaxed, and motorbiked in and outside of Sapa, checking out the amazing (words cannot describe the beauty) scenery in preparation for our trek the following day.
That was Day 1.
I heart Sapa.