After a very noisy train ride, and an over-priced bus ride, we are back in Sapa. The train ride was ok in the end, we each got a top bunk (the coffin sized one) but I rediscovered my super flexibility and not only managed to climb up and get in, but also fold in half and thirds in order to reach my bag and rearrange my blanket. Surprisingly, Paul was less happy with the situation than he was the last time. I also slept really well, and only woke up thirty times. Every time the train made a new noise I would wake up and brace myself, convinced we were going to derail. But we didn't!
So Sapa is COLD. Here is a photo of Paul (again) to illustrate the weather.
We arrived yesterday and found Chi pretty quickly. Zi had received my email and had sent Chi to find us. Chi showed us a good market stall and we got some Pho for breakfast, and then headed off on an overpriced moto to the bottom of the valley. There was a Hmoung festival on to celebrte the new year and I'm beginning to think 'ethnic minority' might be a bit misleading. The place was full of Hmoung people from all over the place. I don't know how many there were, but there were lots.
They has various games and challanges set up, inluding "Climb the muddy bamboo trunk to get the candy at the top" which was great fun to watch.
There was also "Catch the goat while blindfolded",
"Walk along the swinging bamboo bridge and try not to fall in the mud", "Run to the top of the hill carrying the coloured flag", "Throw the ball and flag at the absurdly high target", "Palm of Fury" (Paul's name for two guys pushing againt a short bamboo pole) and everbody's favourite "Tug of war". It was a lot like a school fate. I kept asking Chi why each challenge was on and she kept saying "for fun!" like I was some kind of idiot.
After the Hmoung fete, we walked up the mountain (one hour) to Chi's house where she and her mum cooked us lunch. We ate rice, stir fried morning glory (tasted like bacon!), a boiled potatoe dish and a yummy looking bowl of "fat meat" which was mostly fat. This was leftover from the new year goings on, where (I think) a pig is killed and the meat is divided into thirds, one for the house, one for your neighbour and one for an offering. I definately read this somewhere, but it may or may not apply to the Hmoung people. I don't think I could get any info out of Chi, as she likes talking about interesting things. Certainly there was an emphasis on the fat, rather than the meat. We caught a moto back into town and found Zi, and we shared a bundle of rice that was wrapped up in a banana leaf. Chi's mum had warmed it up on the fire before we left and it was still steaming when we opened it.
Chi's house was a rather large two story wooden barn-like constuction with a ladder to the second level (where corn and straw was drying). It had a compacted dirt floor and one lightbulb which was powered (barely) but a hydro-electric setup at a nearby waterfall. We passed this on the way up, and Chi pointed it out. It was this amazing clear water rushing over rocks and pebbles, right over the road and continuing down the mountain. There were a few other houses next to Chi's (we were halfway up the mountain - well above the road) and a whole lot of rice feilds and veggie gardens. We were entertained by three puppies and some ducks and chickens while we waited for lunch.
The weather yesterday cleared up quite nicely and it was beautifully sunny in the vally. Sunny enough to reburn the hole where Paul's nose used to be, and to turn my red ski-mask into a heat mask. If I thought my skin could power a lightbulb when my back got burnt on Don Det, I am convinced I could have powered my laptop with my face by the end of yesterday. I went to bed with a plaster mask of wet tissues stuck to my nose and forehead. This you might imagine was horribly conflicting because the rest of me was freezing cold.
I had the ingenious idea of getting a room with two beds and therefore getting two doonas! The single beds are always rather large so we're sharing one bed and two doonas - awesome! We bought some thich socks and mega gloves today from a lady who wouldn't let us leave until we bought something. Although we really wanted to look around she kept dropping and dropping the price until we really couldn't say no.
Despite the cold, we're going to spend as much time as we can in Sapa. Maybe another sunny day will happen by.