Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A view from a hill

This is what I can see from my hotel balcony this morning.

Hills shrouded in mist, accompanied by torrential rain. If this was a video, there’d be the occasional thunderclap as well. All in all, not the best weather for trekking.

Welcome to the market town of Sa Pa in the far northwest of Vietnam, close to the Chinese border. The area is home to various protected ethnic minority hill tribes and I imagine it's probably a charming place when the sun is shining.

Having come most of the way from Hanoi on an overnight train, I devoted yesterday morning to having a little lie down in the Summit Hotel, which I‘m staying in as part of an organised tour. The mist was like something out of a Sherlock Holmes film when I arrived - a veritable pea-souper - and, venturing downhill into town in the afternoon, I could see straight away that taking photos was pointless.

Normally when I’m approached by hawkers I make it clear straight away that whatever they‘re selling, I ain‘t buying. As long as they’re not overtly hassling me, most of the time I do this as politely as I can. However, when I ran into a couple of hill tribe women in ethnic dress trying to sell me bracelets and trinkets, it put me on my best behaviour. Perhaps sensing that they had the upper hand, they followed me all around the town centre like I was the Pied Piper. I didn’t buy anything but at least we parted on good terms.

(This is what they look like, by the way. I pinched the picture from the interwebs.)

Anyhow, I’ve told the tour organisers that I’m staying indoors today. Sure, it means writing off the money I’ve paid towards a hill trek, but that’s OK. It’s hardly going to break the bank.

With more than two weeks to go before I fly to Malaysia, and practically all of Vietnam’s major tourist destinations crossed off my list, I’m in no hurry to leave. I’ll just sit it out here till the weather improves and pay for a couple of day trips as and when.

UPDATE: It's the afternoon and there's been a change in the weather.

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