Sa Pa in the Clouds

Packing up for Paradise,
I shall take me along no shoulds or mustnts or oughtas.
I won’t expect a tomorrow vastly niftier than today.
I intend just to bodhi-sit around and bask in my universal mind.
~ James Broughton

Ahhhhh, what a lovely day today basking in the land of clouds called Sa Pa. Yes, I have arrived in Sa Pa after an overnight train a few nights ago from Hanoi that had to be one of the most uncomfortable sleeps ever, not that I can call what I did that night sleep. Still my body is achy from the rock-hard bed and the bouncing and jostling and rocking of the train on the rickety tracks all night. Then the bus to the Bac Ha Market – I made the mistake of taking a tourist bus there, thinking it would be more convenient for this tired soul who didn’t get much of a sleep; but the tourists were way too plentiful for my taste and I had to, dread of all dreads, be on the schedule of the tourist bus. I really do have such disdain for traveling with tourists and anyone else setting my tempo. But so it was – I got to see the Market, I got to witness the Hill Tribes gathering and I even got to see the border with China – across a river where the buildings were covered in Chinese characters and not the Vietnamese language that has become no more understandable to me, but certainly commonplace. It was a filled day and worth all that it took to make it happen!

Arriving into Sa Pa in the early evening, I was dog tired and after a quick dinner, this body was craving a lay down and I gave it just what it wanted!

I awoke yesterday to gorgeous skies, with plenty of clouds, but also blue peeking through way more than Sa Pa is known for. I strolled around the town, sat on a bench at the lake for an hour watching the local people, visited the market and generally got my bearings in this most northern part of Vietnam that I will visit.

Only part of the view from my balcony

And another, only partial view of what I get to look out on!

And still another view upon which I gaze!

I’m fascinated, of course, with the Hill Tribe women – The H’mong, the Flower H’mong, the black H’mong, the Dzao, the red Dzao, the Dzay, the Tay – yes, all these Hill tribes converge here in Sa Pa and come into town to sell their crafts. Amazingly, as poor and as unable to read and write (I just don’t like the sound of the word ‘illiterate’) as most of them are, their English is quite good and they are quite the sales people. And hard-sellers they are – they follow tourists around the town, demanding them to make their purchases only from them and they don’t stop nor take ‘no’ for an answer. They haven’t had any success with me yet, but that’s only because I’m waiting to see what’s on offer lest I jump too quickly into the craft-buying frenzy!

The Women of the Red Dzao Hill Tribe

Today I awoke to my gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains of Sa Pa totally and completely fogged in – the clouds were swirling about; but at times, I literally couldn’t see anything. Then the rains came … and came and came! I found my way to the top floor of the Guest House for breakfast as the storm stormed in. As I looked out the windows, I saw hordes of tourists walking down the road for their morning trek, outfitted in rain gear, boots and umbrellas. Yuck – there’s simply nothing about that that looks appealing to me, I thought. So I ate my bowl of vegetable pho, sipped my tea and knew, absolutely, that I would not be venturing out in the pouring rain and chilly weather. Although I have a ‘heavy’ jacket, I don’t have appropriate shoes, waterproof anything, nor the attitude to embrace such a day; not outside, that is. Nope, this would-be trekker will be embracing this day from the warm and cozy confines of my sweet little room!

Truth is, I love to hike and came to Sapa with grand plans to do some of what the area is famous for – outstanding trekking; but if the further truth be told, I’m a fair weather trekker and have absolutely no interest in being cold, damp and wet – it makes me cranky. Nope, count me out of that plan! And what’s the point, really, if I can’t see any of the incredible views?

I guess my good fortune with yesterday’s near-perfect, warm and clear weather was more than I could expect two days in a row. But no matter – I enjoyed an easy breakfast and then spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon catching up on emails, taking care of some paperwork, (business-y kinds of stuff – yep, I even have to do that out here!), listening to music and to the rain coming down, reflecting on the state of our country in the midst of the recent big news about Osama bin Laden’s assassination and watching the clouds dance along the mountainside. It was more than enough for me.

Then suddenly in the early afternoon, I noticed the clouds were lifting – the totally socked-in sky was opening up! I jumped quickly into the shower and spent the next three hours trekking down to Cat Cat Village, down in this luscious, verdant valley – it was a waaaaaaay steep trek and I was only too glad to hire a motorbike to bring me back up; especially because it started drizzling as I began my climb. And not only that, eternal optimist that I am; but I didn’t even bring my (beige) poncho or my (red) jacket with me! So a quick cruise up on the motorbike and then the drizzle got drizzly-er. By the time I arrived at my Guest House, it was downright raining and the clouds had made their heavy-hanging return. Wow – what timing! And now, a few hours into my return and again, we are totally socked in without being able to see anything out there. Another perfect time to return to my writing.

And the clouds begin to clear

And then, as my trek was coming to a close, this beautiful creature showed up and hung around long enough for me to get this shot, close to impossible with this fluttery friends! This one's for you, Jimmy!

It’s a beautiful day for me – the perfect combination of reading, writing, being out in nature, getting some exercise and now being cozy warm, ensconced with my writing in my sweet little Guest House room.

Soon I’ll venture into town for dinner, but now, it’s time to post these simple words and photos about my delicious day!

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2 Responses to Sa Pa in the Clouds

  1. Donna Ingenito says:

    What beautiful people – young and old alike. The costumes (I guess they’re not costumes for them, eh?) are gorgeous! And the scenery – breathtaking! Thank you again for taking me along for the ride!
    Miss & love you lots!

    • Christina says:

      No, not ‘costumes’ – just their everyday clothes! Yep, the nature here is amazing, when you can see it – another totally fogged in morning – time to leave soon, I think! Talk soon! xoxo

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