Monday, March 9, 2020

On To Sapa

After our debarquement (bien, not mal) the luxury van took us back to Hanoi and the O'Gallery Premier hotel, where we had booked an extra night and stowed some of our gear. Next morning, another luxury van picked us up for the trip to Sapa and our two treks there. Sapa is in far northwest Vietnam, up in the mountains, home to a variety of indigenous peoples, Hmong and others. A French outpost was established there in 1922. In more recent years Sapa has become a tourist destination, partly the scenery, partly the trekking, partly the indigenous villages. We were there for all three, although our trekking ambitions were quite modest: downhill, please, and take the taxi back up to the hotel. Sapa is terraced on a mountainside at about 5,000 feet, with noticeably thinner air than we've been accustomed to.
Another day, another luxury van; and more interesting fellow travelers, including
a couple from Kent who shared a number of British garden destinations with us

There were two rest stops along the way, neither as interesting as the marble 
shopping center nor the water puppets 

But there was still plenty to see and learn; for example,
Vietnamese bus tourists do not wear shoes on the coaches;
the bus provides flip-flops for them to wear at the rest stops

Thus; not very sanitary if you ask me

Both the rest stops en route to Sapa seemed oriented toward nationals and not
us foreigners

Vietnamese driving in the mountains was a thrill ride, buses leap-frogging buses
on blind corners, 15% grades, etc.

The rest stops were these huge three-sided buildings; this one had a huge tiki
warehouse within

In the valleys and for most of the way, rice; lots of rice

Bongs for rent, or sale...

Bus station is a great place to change/rotate tires

Anyhow, the luxury van deposited us in a timely fashion at our hotel, the Chau
Long Sapa hotel, which was notable for several reasons...a big beautiful room

A bath-tub, only the second we've encountered these two months

A portable fake fireplace

A nice balcony

View from the balcony, overlooking a bit of Sapa (it's not a quaint mountain village

Not least, this, a lighted, high-tech toilet/bidet;
disappointingly, unlike the rest of southeast Asia, the color
did not change every five, green, yellow,

Instructions on toilet lid
Remote; the heated seat was enough for me; I did not try the other operations
for fear of bodily harm
View from our table in the dining room; bonsai everywhere
The sad thing was, for the first night and day, we were evidently the only people
there, in all the 60-some rooms; rather than set up the customary breakfast
buffet, they just brought it to our table

A display of Hmong skirts in the restaurant

Azaleas blooming in the lobby
And a big aquarium

Street scene outside the hotel

Interior courtyard, four of the seven floors; beautiful place, nice people; I hope
they can weather the storm...

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