Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Morning Vietnam!

After so many night trains I've had several opportunities to see Vietnam in the early morning.  The last few we were in Sapa, which is up in the mountains of Northern Vietnam (near the Chinese border).  The rice fields and mountains were amazing.  The first morning we arrived it was very foggy and unfortunately it didn't clear much as the day went on.  However, it didn't detract from the scenery, in fact it may have actually added to it's magical feel.  We weren't here in time for the rice planting or harvesting but the fields were filled with water in preparation.  Next month the fields will be planted with their only crop of rice for the year.  The families will depend on it to survive over the next 12 months.

It was incredible to see how the communities lived and interacted with the tourists that were everywhere.  This is the first area we've visited where the communities and culture still seemed to be similar to the way it's always been, with the exception of the little tribal ladies that doubled the size of our trekking group.  They followed us on our 10km walk so that they could offer us their wares at the end.  It was difficult to say "no" after you have bonded with them all day.  (Well, hard to say no if you aren't a cold-hearted person without any money like me).

Mom and "Black Shadow" with the gift
On the train ride back from Sapa we were in a berth with two men from China (one was from an area near Tibet and the other was Mongolian).  They were both in Sapa as part of a Unicef program for minority Chinese.  They were lovely people and the man from the Tibetan area was apparently known for a few movies as well as for his calligraphy and art.  After a short discussion he offered us a gift of a book on himself and his work as well as a piece of his artwork.  It's so nice when the simplest gifts are the ones that mean the most at the end of the trip.  It also made the snoring that night from the Mongolian man a bit easier to take (it was so loud that I could still hear it through my earplugs and over the sound of the train - I slept very little).

We are in Hanoi today and then we take another night train into China tonight.  I'm hoping we have quieter companions this time.  As we prepare for the trip I'm starting to realize all of the changes that I will have to adjust to when we leave Vietnam.  For instance, I don't expect to be able to access my google account or Facebook and I'm not sure if I will have access to my blog or Skype either.  It could be an interesting visit.

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