It was Monday 23 December and I had decided to head off to Bac Ha. However, this is not on a normal route and the hotel staff couldn't understand why I was going there and not to Hanoi. Anyway, I managed to catch a minibus to Lao Cai, although it kept stopping and turning around to pick people up, so the one hour journey took the best part of two!
Arriving in Lao Cai I managed to arrange the bus to Bac Ha but at a price, as I was to find out! Still, it was an interesting journey, again with lots os stops and U-turns to pick people up. I guess I will have to become used to this mode of transport! The bus was also carrying goods and for most of the journey the aisle was completely full of bags and boxes. I'm glad that there was no emergency, as getting off in a hurry would have been tricky!
On arrival in Bac Ha I was picked up by a hotel manager and so had a place for the night; I hadn't planned anything in advance. The hotel was clean but very cold; the buildings here are worse than the UK ones for cold. ASfter chatting with the hotel owner for a while I decided to hire a guide for a day's trekking the next day.
Awaking nice and early, it was time for the trek. I say waking, I was actually awoken by the public radio broadcast that booms around the town every morning from 6.00 to 7.00 and you cannot escape from it anywhere within the town, due to the many and large loudspeakers dotted around the streets.
The trek itself was great. My guide, Ming, was quite informative, even if his english was fairly limited. Apparently, we ended up covering around 22kms during the seven hours of trekking. I was given a taste of the local hooch, a corn based spirit at around 45% ABV. The taste was straight from the still, so it wasn't cut in anyway and, whilst strong, it was eminently drinkable. Later on, I saw the locals seeling the same stuff from large plastic containers, which they used to fill old 2l pop bottles.
Bac Ha is a normal Vietnamese town so, whilst the trek was good, there was no-one else about and very little to do; so, I decided that I would return to Sa Pa for Christmas Day and see if there were any fetivities going on.