So.. I didn’t get any sunrise photos which I told myself I would (why do I say things I don’t mean lol..). We were up in the late morning, had a breakfast of fruit and Vietnamese-style crepes with condensed milk, sugar, and jam, and were on our way further south-west from Ta Van to Giang Ta Chai.
There was a dreamy, heavy mist that slowly rolled on the gigantic mountain ridge face to our left, accompanied by a crisp breeze. We were all much quieter that morning, soaking up every turn and breath. The walk was easier in that there weren’t many rice paddies to get around, but the trail was much rockier and steeper going up and down. We were accompanied again by some kids, who again wanted to sell us things at the end of one section of the trail. Monkey see, monkey do.
One part of the hike I’ll never forget is when we walked through a bamboo forest. I was listening to Past, Present, Future by Oliver Tank and it was this almost ethereal, meditative experience. I took my earphones out and saturated my senses with the flora around me. When I close my eyes I can almost hear the whispering and rustling “shhhhh” of the thin leaves, the trickling of a stream, dead leaves crisping under our feet, and birds chirping nearby.
When we came out the other side, we were on the face of a HUGE waterfall! In the wet season its raging waters would make it impossible to cross or be on, but we relaxed on the rock face admiring the scene below, listening to the sound of a mini-fall.
We hiked down to the base of the falls then made our way through more Hmong, Dzao, and Dzay villages. We dropped by an elementary school (good luck trying to skip school there – because the village and class sizes are so small the teacher will check in on your house to get your ass in class!), and crossed a dry river overhead on a slightly rickety, long bridge. A hydroelectric plant was under construction. I think the Vietnamese are more progressive (aka spend more $$$) than Australians in some ways – renewable energy, readily available and reliable, free wifi everywhere.. why can’t we get us some of that, Straya??
From the bridge it was basically a turning loop back towards Sa Pa town. We made it to our stop for lunch then got picked up further along the road. Thick hiking socks were one of the many things I forgot to chaotically pack right before dashing off for the plane and I paid for it! Definitely bring some, and well-fitting sneakers or hiking boots. Also, there’s mud year-round because of the bunds and your shoes WILL get muddy.
From the photos you can see another face of this beautiful region compared to the ones you’ve probably seen during the wet season. Although the rice terraces may not be lushly green or bright, harvest yellow (and I mean how high do many photographers crank up the contrast and saturation – it ain’t true to life), the temperate climate and many flowering cherry blossoms were so delightful to the senses. I can’t imagine doing this trek in the rain or blazing summer sun.
All in all, I absolutely recommend going on a hiking trip to Sa Pa – it was one of the best of my life. I understand that you can do anything from a day trip to over a week. If I had more time I would’ve loved to do at least a 5-day hike (since the ONLY exercise I love to do is dancing and hiking.. no thanks/why to anything else lol). From Sa Pa town you can head in different directions, and there are various ethnic villages occupying areas. Our guide said the villages further south-west are really beautiful in the harvest season so try to do that! They’ll take more than a few days, though.
Sa Pa footage from 00:17 – 00:59