The last day in Vietnam was electric.
Vietnam had reached the finals
of Under-23 World Cup Football.
Apparently they never make it so big
in the world stage so this was special.
It started late afternoon as big screens were set up
and Vietnamese people were glued to the screen
Anxious and hopeful as they prayed they would win.
While we had been following up
watching quarter finals in Hue train station
semi-finals in the Halong Bay cruise,
We made it to the streets of Hanoi
for the much awaited finals.
The situation was almost tense
The crowd had blocked the streets
and everyone was clad in red.
The mood was ecstatic
and we knew even if they lost
it would not matter because
the Vietnamese had already won.
The joy and excitement could not be contained
there was fireworks, honking horns
and lots of happy people that night
They fought the good fight.
The next day in Sapa was a longer hike to Lào Cai village near China border. Apparently, it used to be a key trading post and when my google maps showed how close we were to China, I only wanted to hike till the border but that is only wishful thinking.
The beautiful ladies of Lào Cai rule rural Vietnam. From tour guides to vendors to shopkeepers of various kind, it was the women who ran the show.
They would walk alongside the hikers with their basket full of goodies and as we ended our tour, they would try to sell their items to us. Shawls, scarves, table mats, head bands etc. would be displayed and I too bought a long indigo scarf as she tied one of the friendship bands in my wrist which I still wear today.
The terraced fields would definitely look different in another season but as we left this border town that afternoon, it was shining under the sunny sky.
An hour after we reached Sapa, we started for our “trek” to Cat Cat Village. It was a sunny morning with blue skies, pretty mountains and lots of tourists. But we had a very friendly guide who looked just like a friend as she guided us to Cat Cat tourism area.
Walking down the steps, we could see the colourful local attires and the designs. There was also this little kid who looked like a doll selling dolls to tourists.
Cat Cat Village is home to the Hmong community and it was fascinating to enter their homes and see their weaving machines and how they dye and design their clothes.
Along the way were many Hmong women selling the little souvenirs they had made. Colorful wrist bands and sling bags with Hmong patterns seemed a popular one as it was impossible not to buy anything from these smiling women.
In no time, we had reached the centre area where a lot of traditional activities were displayed. From spinning to weaving and some live dance performances were held across the waterfall that was quite refreshing after the long walk.
Then we headed to what looked like a peek into sustainable living harnessing water by creating mini dams and water-wheel for some pulley action…
The corn decors were also very impressive. And there was a museum kind of exhibition inside one of these huts with local edible items; hence the corns perhaps? But what I liked most is how this place creates room for not just foreigners from outside but local tourists who get to come and revisit their culture.
Took the night bus from Hanoi to Sapa
and arrived in this delightful mountain town.
One of its main attractions is this old church
where Hmong vendors sell little knick-knacks
although they have an allotted market
and they aren’t allowed to sell stuff on the streets
because of some code of conduct for visitors.
There is a lake and a park
another of their public spaces,
that is well kept and tourist friendly
(reminded me of Boulder, Colorado).
Sapa is home to the Hmong community
and we found this grandma making clothes
I had to buy one for myself so I chose one
and gladly obliged from this local tribal designer.
Sapa had its leftover French architecture
and looked like there were new hotels coming up.
There was a square in the middle of the town
a picturesque setting
nice to just sit and watch people
playing football, volleyball and chilling
there were young kids
dressed in traditional attires
who would try sell little trinkets and bracelets
Towards the end of the day
we also managed to visit the church
blessed bountifully to be in this beautiful town.
We took the train from Huế to Hà Nội
A very comfortable journey with super friendly train staff
(did I mention how easy it was to book the train tickets too?)
Upon reaching Hà Nội, we walked around the Hoàn Kiếm Lake
which is located in the key area of capital city.
It is another of these public spaces where people enjoy
and that makes Vietnam such a wonderful place.
However the lake. was undergoing some water draining
and did not look as clean and pristine as the last time around.
As we walked around, we could see that
Hà Nội was also in the mood for tết 2018.
For dinner, we got to try the famous Bun Cha of Hà Nội
which even Obama enjoyed with some bia (beer) in one of these joints.