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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Day 3 Evening in Hanoi and Day 4 & 5 at SAPA
Day 3 Night: Hanoi to Lao Cai by the night train 4 berth soft sleeper cabin with AC - Lao Cai to Sapa by car/van.
At 7:30 pm transfer from your hotel to the Hanoi train station for boarding at 9:15 pm. You will be in shared AC soft sleeper cabins of 4 to travel North to Lao Cai town. The next morning: The train arrives in Lao Cai at about 5:00 am where your Sapa Pathfinder Travel guide will welcome you. Look for the "Hoang Ha Sapa Hotel" sign when you exit the train station. Then take a morning drive through the clouds by bus / van to Sapa (about 1.5 hours). When you arrive in Sapa you will be taken to Hoang Ha Sapa Hotel for a morning shower & breakfast, then prepare for the trek as detailed below:
Day 4: Sapa Town - Cat Cat Village

Picked up at Lao Cai Station upon your early arrival for over an hour drive uphill in a shared mini van to Sapa. After freshen up and Breakfast in a local restaurant you will enjoy a walk around this charming town, paying visit to Sapa market and the old cathedral where you can meet a lot of local ethnic minority peoples such as Black H'mong and Red Zao wearing their traditional colorful dresses selling their farming and gathering products and handicrafts for souvenir.
Check in your hotel, having Lunch and noon Break before departing for a walk to Cat Cat village locating near the bottom of a deep valley at the foot of Fansipan Peak. Spectacular scenery of mountains and terraced rice paddies changes after every corner as you walk downhill. Getting through Cat Cat village of the H'mong, you will pay visiting to some local homes, witnessing their daily life activities and experiencing their hospitability. Continue walking down to the valley bottom, having a break at a stunning waterfall where the French built a hydraulic power station, you will walk uphill and make a loop around the valley and get back to Sapa. The rest of the afternoon and evening is at your leisure.
Breakfast and Lunch included, Dinner on your own
Accommodation: Hoang Ha Sapa Hotel
Day 5:  Explore 3 Minority Villages - Night train to Hanoi

Leaving your hotel after Breakfast, you will walk along the main road heading south for about an hour before turning right to a foot path down hill to Muong Hoa Valley. This part offers spectacular scenery of the highest part of Hoang Lien Son mountain range and in a nice day, Fansipan Peak can be seen. Crossing the river by a suspension bridge you will challenge your feet uphill to Y Linh Ho village. Here you will pay visiting to some H'mong families, watching them doing their daily works. After picnic Lunch, the trail continues up and down hill for about 2 hours as you reach to Lao Chai, a large village of the H'mong. Picnic Lunch and then following the river bank to Ta Van of the Zay people. Paying visiting to local homes, village schools... you will enjoy much your cultural discovery of local ethnic peoples as well as breathtaking scenery of the Muong Hoa Valley. Pick up and transfer back to Sapa in the afternoon, take a shower and then transfer down hill to Lao Cai station for taking the night train to Hanoi which arrives in Hanoi early at 05.30 to 06.00 next morning.
• Breakfast & Picnic Lunch included, Dinner on your own
• Overnight on the train
The train is quite old and not that clean. But as compared to the local trains, taking the tourist train is much better. There is cockroaches in the cabin, so once the train started moving. It is best that you just off the light and sleep. It will be bumpy and noisy, but I took my motion sickness pill so I just dozed off. I guess is too early in the morning, so my mind is not that awake. My friend and I followed the wrong car, hence halfway up hill, he drove us downhill to fetch his correct customers. And we went to look for the correct bus. Lesson learnt: Next time must check the tour name / hotel name, not just merely my name.
When we reached SAPA, we quickly went for our breakfast then to our tour. The cat cat village is very peaceful. Yes, you will have villagers following you around, pestering you to buy stuffs from them. But people there are quite nice and peaceful. The animals will sleep and basked under the sunlight. After half day trekking, we went back to check in our hotel. My friend and I walked around SAPA, and I truly love there. I bought a fake Northface jacket for VND500,000 which is around SGD30. Even for a normal jacket, outer windbreaker, inner cotton fabric, it is still quite cheap.
Next day we went for trekking again. The weather is not in our favour. It is very foggy with slightly drizzling. Totally different from previous weather, cooling and sunny. I fell down a few times, my new jacket, bag and jeans is muddy! Then again, if not for kind hearted villagers who held my hand and lead me the way. Maybe I will roll down the hill. Funny thing is they just wore slippers or some plastic slip on, and they can walk easily in the slippery hill! Animals there is very well trained. They can roam around the hill in the day and get back home by night fall. Truly amazing! After the trekking, we went back for a quick shower before heading back to Lao Cat to take the overnight train.
In conclusion, SAPA is a must to visit!

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