This post was supposed to be out last December but I came back with a bad muscle aches and tiredness took over from all the exhaustion hiking up 3143m.
In between rest and home front, I did some last minute alteration to the bridesmaid dresses that needed to be ready the same week. While typing this post, i am reminiscing the time spent on measuring, drafting, getting the right fabric ready, cut, sew, fit, alter and let the girls had their final fit, the feeling of excitement to stressful (will the dress fits other than myself? 😰) to enjoyment (oh the dresses fit!!! need improvement too) to learning new methods as we (D and I) continued with the dresses to a huge relieve when I saw the girls wearing it on that beautiful day. (Thanks again my dear A&Z for trusting in us!)
Alright back to last November, a week before December and 14 hours after CMC camp, D and I went on a trip planned since last June but nothing solid formed till the last few weeks before the actual trip. Did some homework on Hanoi and what excited me was Mount Fansipan which was just 10 hours away. Comtemplated for a long time (not much training done due to the terrible haze back then) and excitedly told D, “Let’s do Mount Fansipan!” That’s what I told her. She agreed to it so readily (without knowing what she has gotten herself into) 😰😰😵
The first skill we arrived at Hanoi is not learning the language but to know how to cross THE street without getting knock into by the chainless oncoming vehicles from both directions. So, we had to look right left right and while doing that we slowly walked across the street as if we were part of them. Amazingly, we MADE it across safely. There is a system in the midst of a chaotic situation. But the honking from all directions was making me crazy. At the end of the 3rd day I was telling D that I miss home.
On the day we arrived, we went for a leather class conducted by Soi, at his home. Found his classes through backstreet academy and booking through the system was simple and easy. It is located along a small alley and initially we thought it was closed as it was locked by heavy metal gate (nah, it wasn’t).
Soi’s knowledge of leather making is vast. His English is good and we were able to communicate with ease. I came back with a pouch made and a knowledge of know-how. Went with a purpose and came back knowing, that feeling is wonderful till now that I am reminiscing the time spent there. Am happy and thankful.
I practiced when I came back and ta-da! the small coin pouch I made and been using it to see if it can withstand my rough handling.
Everytime I travel out alone I love to learn how to cook the local dishes, the local culture, their wet market, what sort of ingredients they used and what’s special to them.
Cooking with Hanoi cooking centre was a good experience. We visited the local market nearby and was introduced to local products that the locals love to use. The fish sauce! The same as Thai, fish sauce is found in every home in Vietnam. The difference is that Thai fish sauce is saltier whereas the Vietnam fish sauce is sweeter.
One of the dish we learnt was how to cook silkworm!! Nah! That was not in the menu but the kind lady who brought us to the market bought some for us to try. Pardon me but I have no courage to eat these silkworm. D did and she was brave!!! We had our lunch with our course mates and spent the lunch hour chatting away. We have a Korean chef in our midst, a Malaysian accompanying her husband and us!😊😊
We did travelled to the fabric market by taxi which cost us about S$15 one way. Walked through the congested one way lane that became two ways traffic with shops at both sides, locals, motorcycles and some tourists. Nothing for me but D managed to get what she likes 😊
That night on the same day we left Hanoi to Lao Cai.
Took a night train with bunk beds and I must say it wasn’t a good sleep that night. Too bumpy and also some abrupt stops at some stations that kept me awake. Not much rest as I ought to have before the hike up the mountain.
A side note to self: It will be good to spend a day and have a good sleep at where the hiking place is so that your body is able to take the strenuous hike.
We arrived at Sapa after 9H and an hour of bus ride. The weather was quite cold at that time. Hungry plus not enough rest equal a tired body. We went with Sapa O’Chau which i highly recommend. Guide and porter were good. They supplied thermal sleeping bag which we truly appreciate as it kept us warm throughout the night at 2800m base camp. I was told by one of the member from the other group that their sleeping bags were the normal type which didn’t kept them warm. Poor people! Imagine being in your wet clothes after 8 hours of hiking up. Although it was very cold but I am soaked with my perspiration and needed some dry clothes. The dry clothes and a good thermal sleeping bag kept me (us) warm.
Back to the time we took off. After breakfast, we took a short car ride and reached the start of the hiking point at about 10am. Exciting!!! I was trying to recall how it was like hiking up Mount Kinabalu and this was totally different at some point. The only way up and down the mountain, no other different trails.
There isn’t a porter to help carry our backpack with our needs. That means what you are bringing up with you will have to be carried by yourself. We had one guide and one porter. Both of them were already carrying heavy stuff for us. Our food, plates, sauces, etc (to be cooked at rest points) and thermal sleeping bags. Their bag and a big basket were way more heavier than ours.
Pack the necessity (water 3L up and down), dry clothes, waterproof jacket, gloves, hiking poles (though there were times that I abandoned mine due to climbing on all four), headlight, snacks, camera?
A waterproof sleeve for the phone would be good to keep it dry (didnt think of that and missed those places I would love to take especially the cliff we climbed across. A Go-Pro maybe a better choice?
Remember to pack only the necessities, unless you are very fit, if not, you will be tired out with all the climb over big double steps, big boulders, ladders, climb on all four using gloves down and up over a cliff and the many steep slopes up (coming down was slightly easier but more dangerous). I almost gave up at one point going up due to the extreme tiredness that sets in (doubly tired due to unforseen matter). “Take deep, slow breath and walk”, I told myself. Am glad for the experience and learnt to be more resilient in difficult conditions.
There is a rest house at 2800m with no light (electricity not up yet), no heater but there are rooms with platform, toilets with icy cold water, the kitchen is away from the main sleeping area and it was so windy with door slamming most of the time if they were not close properly. It was pitched dark by 6pm. Without lights, we could only feel what’s in the room using our hands.. haha! So, am thankful we brought our headlights.
We wanted to explore the kitchen outside the house, as there was a fireplace but the cold wind kept us inside. Howling winds all around and at one time I thought the house won’t survive the strong wind. Ha!
We didn’t get to summit the next morning as the way up was too steep and seeing how tired we were, we decided to go back down at 8am. After another 6 hours we were back to where we started. We hiked 38km in total.
Endure the toughness, persevere even when things turned out otherwise, beyond my imagination and overcoming it gave me a set of new experience, and a good company (who encourages when one gets too tired to move). Lots of prayers too!
And now let me end this by mentioning about the way back to Hanoi by train, we again took the bunk beds and this time, we slept through till it reached and stopped at Hanoi station. We were so tired that those bumpy movements or abrupt stops didn’t bother us (or rather me) 😜😃