#OTN Travels: Sapa (the last one!) | One To Nothin'

#OTN Travels: Sapa (the last one!)

*This is a continuation of my travel journal from my solo trip to Vietnam. See part 1 here & part 2 here*

Guys, this time last year I was gallivanting around Vietnam all on my own, so I thought I should finally press publish on this post that's been patiently sitting in my drafts for 12 months. Enjoyyyy. 


After a restless night on the train car of waking up just about every hour (our car was RIGHT next to the bathroom), I woke up around 5:30am when a horn let us know it was time. I didn't even end up brushing my teeth because I didn't want to fight to get into the tiny bathroom, so just picture a very tired Kens with stank breath still wearing the jeans she slept in (and wore the entire day before). Normally she'd be a cranky butthead, but this time around she was in pretty good spirits because ADVENTURE.

I had a hotel booked in Sapa that I found way ahead of time--I picked a fancy 4-star number because I figured by this time in the trip I might be a little worn out and in need of some fancy views--but check in wasn't until 2pm. I learned my lesson in Hanoi on day one, so I knew I needed to find something to do until then. My bunkmates told me they were going to the once-a-week market in Bac Ha, so I decided to follow suit. I hopped on a bus, asked for some coffee (because coffee breath is better than sleep breath), and promptly made friends with everyone else (like 10 other people) crammed on the bus. This was the first time I found other American tourists, one couple from Philly and another from West Virginia. Not gonna lie, it was pretty fun for me listening to them shit all over Trump on that bus ride, but I think holding a conversation over those windy, bumpy roads for so long (I think the bus ride was about four hours) really took it out of me. By the time I arrived at the market, I was incredibly overwhelmed.

First thing I did was buy a donut--it was delicious, more croissant-like than sweet--but the more I walked around, the more I wanted to run back to the bus and hide. This is the market that supplies ALL the things to the people who live miles and miles around, I'm talkin' batteries, toilet paper, clothes, meat, spices, anything you could need. There's no Target or Walgreens for when you run out of tampons, man, so everyone was here and it was a lot to take in. Don't get me wrong, it was absolutely beautiful. Families working, shopping, chatting, bargaining... but some things I saw I wasn't used to. Like pigs, buffalo, and even dogs (lots and lots of mangey dogs) all squealing because they're about to be dinner kinds of things. I think the overstimulation and slight (hypocritical, I might add) disturbance over these animals about to be slaughtered combined with hunger and lack of sleep made me want to break down. 

I almost started crying, in fact I might have shed a couple tears, but then I just ate some pho (it wasn't very good because I went to a less crowded area to try to chill out, which didn't help the situation) and walked until I found a little shaded area with a great view of the hustle and bustle with coffee and juice for sale. I got an iced coffee, sat down, and calmed myself down. It was close enough to the action that I didn't feel like I was hiding or missing out, but far enough that the young boy working the coffee stand asked me why I was just sitting there. He was probably like 15 and practicing his English, but he straight up told me to go see the buffalo. I laughed, finished my coffee, and went to go see the damn buffalo. And just like that my entire mood changed. I was excited to pick out souvenirs for my family and loved the jewelry, elephant pants, and art everywhere.
I ended up spending all my money on gifts and making my first international atm withdrawal--big moves, guys. I enjoyed the rest of my time at the market and eventually made my way back to the bus to go to Sapa. I arrived, checked into my hotel, which was so big, so cheap, and had the most amazing view of the rice fields. I was so lucky because the other folks I met on the Ha Long Bay cruise started their journey in Sapa, and the fog was so bad they couldn't see a foot in front of them, but it cleared out by the time I arrived. I immediately took a loooong shower, brushed my teeth forever, and took a nap. Then I woke up, went to dinner at a restaurant called A Moment Romantic where I ordered a special that had about four courses. It came with rice wine, which the super sweet waitress warned me was crazy strong, but I thought I could handle it. I was wrong. She noticed I wasn't drinking the fire water, so she asked if I wanted something else, to which I said, "Can I have a coconut, plz?" MUCH BETTER (and would've cost $18 in SF).  
After dinner I thought about exploring, but the fog had already started rolling in and I was still exhausted, so I went back to my luxurious hotel room and watched Blades of Glory. Literally obsessed with Vietnamese TV programming, y'all. Did you know they censor violence on TV? At first I was weirded out because, like, how dare you?! Then I remembered how we censor out words like "sex" and "weed" in songs here in the states and thought hard about how much better life would be if everyone was occasionally exposed to marijuana and sexy times instead of guns, blood, and purposeless violence in movies, video games, and the top 20. Raise your hand if you'd rather catch your high schooler with a joint than a gun *raises all the hands* /end rant
I knew day 7 was going to be dedicated to trekking, so I woke up super early and met up with the Greek ladies from my cruise. We went on a guided hike to three different villages, slip-sliding through the mud while the young, tiny, and incredibly agile women of the villages kept our clumsy asses from sliding down the muddy hills. I definitely still managed to get my shoes entirely covered, but unlike a few of the tourists hiking with me, I never actually ate it. We learned a little bit about each village and how they make hemp into textiles for clothing and purses--the types of goods I saw for sale at the Bac Ha market. Our tour guide was a funny and charming young man who answered all my questions and even demonstrated how to play the bullhorn, an instrument played in the H'Mong village--the single men used to play it to attract a date (who needs Tinder when you've got one of these?) We stopped by a school where we saw the children practicing an awesome (and elaborate) dance routine. 
Once I got back to the hotel, it was late afternoon, so I showered, napped and decided to venture out farther for dinner this time. Unfortunately since my Nikes were covered in mud, I wore my only other pair of sneakers, which just so happened to be brand new, bright white adidas... I thought it would be fine because every other night outing ending in me back in bed shortly after, but this time was different. I went to the Good Morning Vietnam restaurant that I found on TripAdviser (I got the chicken curry cooked IN A COCONUT--it was incredible). Since the restaurant was packed inside, I sat outside waiting for a table to open up, but since I was by myself I just went ahead and ordered. Meanwhile, there was a group of dudes waiting outside for a table as well.
They struck up a conversation when they saw my epic coconut filled with curry, and I soon found out that one of them was born and raised in Livermore, CA (that's in the Bay Area 'burbs, and I lived there for a year... so bizarre), and they invited me to join their crew. One of them was celebrating his birthday, so dinner turned into a hookah bar, which turned into buying a bottle of whiskey from the bar, which turned into roaming the VERY foggy, multi-color-lighted, abandoned streets of Sapa with a bottle of Jack Daniels. Yeeeea. So needless to say somewhere between dinner and back to my bed, my beautiful, fresh adidas turned into a muddy mess. They still haven't recovered. 

I think I'll just skip over this one. Let's just say I should've listened to my Australian friends from the cruise when they told me to stay the eff away from liquor. I was very, very sick all. freakin. day. I checked out of my hotel at noon and hated my life until I went to sleep in the train back to Hanoi that night (I took my Advil PM this time and I was OUT). The highlight of the day probably should've been the foot massage I got, but considering I was praying to the gods that I wouldn't puke on my lap the whole time... the highlight was probably when ladies at the hotel fixed me fried sweet potatoes to keep me from dying. Yep, that's about it. 
DAY 9 

MY LAST DAY! Ahh sweet Hanoi. One last day to explore. I went back to Gia Truyen first thing in the morning for one last amazing bowl of pho (still the best I ever had), then went to Giang coffee and tried the matcha egg coffee this time--it tasted like magical matcha ice cream that somehow doesn't destroy my insides. So delightful. I spent most of the rest of the day walking around. I walked around the lake listening to an audiobook (Turtles All the Way Down), bought a few more knick-knacks at various stores, and walked all the way to Bun Cha Huong Lien so I could eat the same Bun Cha that Obama and Anthony Bourdain enjoyed together when they visited. It was delicious and hilarious to see all the photos of the two of them plastered all over the walls. Even the wet napkin said "As eaten by US President Obama." *Sigh* The good ol' days...
Eventually I made my way back to the Golden Moon Hotel (where I stored my luggage and stayed every night I was in Hanoi) to get a taxi to the airport. The manager there (the one who got me coffee on my first day) gave me a goodbye present! The sweetest. The last thing I expected after all their help and attentiveness was a gift. It was a decorative plate, and it lives on my dresser with all my jewelry now. I looked out the window the whole cab ride to the airport, taking in the motorbikes, the foggy sky, the beautiful food everywhere, slightly dreading the long journey back to the states, but mostly feeling proud of myself for doing something that, frankly, scared the shit out of me. 

Then it set in. The rush of doing, for the first time, something I know I'll keep doing for the rest of my life.

This was my first solo trip, but I assure you, friends, it will not be my last. 

Thanks for joining me on this long-winded travel log. Hopefully I'll be back soon with more. 
Where should I go next?

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