Sapa - ducks in ponds and miles of steep pathways

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Returning by train from Sapa, in Vietnam, we arrived at Hanoi station in the very early hours of the morning. Without a map, we decided to follow a backpacker who looked like they knew where they were going. Soon, with the aid of a young English-speaking woman from Germany, we were on the dimly lit path to the city.

As travellers do, we shared tales of the Sapa experience. The woman told of how excited she had been, in anticipation of gorgeous mountain scenery, with rice paddies, ducks in ponds and miles of steep pathways that connected the picturesque villages. On the day before her arrival, the mist had turned the place grey-white and all but invisible. Gentle rain and very low temperatures added to her misery. She had planned on a five-day stay. She left after one.

For us, these conditions were magical. Falling down laughing, covered in mud, getting drenched and being “lost” in the mist were all rich experiences that made the place come to life. Rather than simply looking out over valleys, we were plunged into a reality that could not be avoided. When we entered local houses, we too were hunched over small fires to keep warm. We shared sentiments and laughter though this wasn’t enough.

And then there were the surprises, like the buffalo almost not seen, just there, at our side. And the two tribesmen, who emerged, carrying on a pole, a wild animal that they proudly displayed as their catch.

Sapa - ducks in ponds and miles of steep pathways

Keith Russell

Newcastle, Australia

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