A much simpler day in Sa Pa, which included just a short 3 km walk to the Cat Cat village with a local guide. We headed out around 10 AM with our guide and a few other tourists. The difference was that our guide today was actually Vietnamese and not from any of the tribes in Sa Pa.
On our way, we saw the Sa Pa street market and our guide explained that a lot of the products sold on the market are actually from south of China and not from Vietnam, even the sticky rice rolls!
Along the way, we saw some more gorgeous scenery of beautiful Sa Pa and learned that Cat Cat, the name of village we were going to, means waterfall. I also noticed something else, something that I did not pick up from our guide, Mi, yesterday. Our Vietnamese guide didn't seem as happy and content as our previous guide. She told us that she has a young son and plays English songs for him on the internet so that he can learn English. She was educated and could read and write and, as mentioned, had access to the internet. Could knowing how much is out there in the world be the reason why she didn't seem content with the overly simple life in Sa pa? Perhaps.
We all enjoyed the shorter walk today and the warmer weather. We saw quite a few children again trying to sell us bracelets and bags. If we said no thanks they looked very displeased and disappointed. Yesterday when we took our long 13 km walk and saw many many more kids selling products, I thought these children must be quite happy and that they are just putting on a show to make tourists feel bad. While this thought may partly be true, I realized after our walk that these poor kids actually barely have any room for childhood in their lives. Yes they lead simple lives, but that is not necessarily great. Because their parents, mainly mothers, want to stay on the streets and sell products to tourists as late as possible, they keep the kids out with them on the side of the streets. Late in the evening, I saw a little kid who has actually holding a sleeping baby, nodding off, and I felt terrible.
I wondered if Mi, our guide from yesterday, just told us that the village people are happy with simple living to make us feel "good". Because if that was really the case, then why oh why would these families force their children to take on to the streets and keep them out past 10 PM just to sell one more bracelet?!
After the hike, the weather turned worse and we spent the rest of the day in our hotel lobby, except for a short walk to a French Cafe (which was totally over priced, so we only got a cup of hot chocolate). We went back to the hotel to eat our dinner, which was the same thing as our lunch and our previous night's dinner! Though the food wasn't bad, needless to say, we were ready to leave!
Our bus ride back to Hanoi was supposed to be at 10 PM, but the bus actually left at 9:30. We saw the bus leaving as we arrived at the stop!! Thankfully the guy who gave us a ride was able to call the bus driver to make him come back. Our favorite part was that they kept pretending that was supposed to be the time they should leave and that everything was peachy! As we went to board the bus, they told us that they don't have enough room to give us the 4 beds we paid for, that they could only give us 2! After some negotiations with other passengers we were able to get the 3 seats in the back of the bus for the 4 of us. Little did we know that there were even more people boarding the bus...yes the same bus that was "supposed" to have left a half hour earlier and had no more beds! The solution? They made people sleep on the floor of the bus, offering to give them what amounted to a couple dollars as compensation! Surprisingly, a few people took the offer, but they appeared to be Vietnamese people that just seemed to be along for the ride, and probably hadn't paid much or anything for the ride in the first place. The bus has 40 sleeping seats, 47 passengers got on the bus! It was insanity!!
If you read our last post, you might recall the 45 minute stop during which the driver went off to have a dinner feast! That happened again! The driver left the 47 crammed people on the bus while he went to have his dinner. Gah! The air on the bus was quite stuffy and disgusting.
Thankfully, the kids were totally asleep all the way to Hanoi, though I didn't sleep a wink, and we lived to tell you all the tale!! :)