After an irritating first day in Sapa, today I decided to do something amazing. I knew that people usually do trekking here and there are many trekking tours as well. I didn’t want to sign up to any of them as I wanted to go with my speed. Moreover I read that you can do it by yourself so I didn’t want to spend on tour.
I checked the road to Ta Van and the distance was around 13 km until there. I thought the road was all built so walking wouldn’t be the problem. I followed Google maps well. Of course it was raining that morning. I wore raincoat but the road condition didn’t give me safe feeling. The road was full of mud due to the rain. The mountain on the side was half broken down due to the rain. The road wasn’t that wide but lorry, car, motorbike all ran along. No one walked. Only me. Once again I didn’t know what I was doing.
Then a motortaxi driver stopped and asked me if I wanted to take a ride. I hesitated but I asked him if he could take me to Ta Van and how much it would be. He told me it was 30.000 VND. I was surprised by the price. Yesterday the motortaxi driver took me to Cat Cat village which was around 3-4 km away from Sapa and he took 40.000 VND. Today the driver took me to a longer distance but only 30.000 VND. I got on the motorbike.
On the way the rain was one thing, but the road wasn’t a joke. As I described above, the road was full of mud and lorry, cars, other motorbikes on a not too wide road. One side was a mountain, the other side was a way down to the rice field. Some part didn’t even have a barrier to make sure you don’t fall down. Not to talk about the pothole which made the whole ride harder. Sometimes the driver had to avoid the other car so he pulled over the edge and suddenly I couldn’t decide whether we would fall down or continue the road. Luckily we went on.
The driver was the local Hmong person therefore he got used to and knew the road well. I can’t imagine myself driving there and I probably wouldn’t trust myself to a non-local either. On the way when we arrived to Lao Chai and Ta Van area I finally saw the whole area of terrace rice field. The real one in the nature. I shed tears due to its beauty. I asked the driver to stop so I could take a picture of it. He was very nice.
When we finally arrived to the entrance of Ta Van, I asked if there was a way to go around the field as I wanted to see it from every angle and then go back. I didn’t really like the rain. The driver didn’t fully understand me, simply because Hmong and Vietnamese language are two different one. So he took me to the other side of the field and dropped me there. Since he took me further he asked me 50.000 VND instead of 30.000VND. Still it was cheap.
Beginning of the mud trekking
I thought from there I only have to cross the rice field where the road was built similar to Cat Cat village and then I was out to walk back. I was totally wrong. I was walking a while on the concrete road then I found myself on the cart-road. I met a group of Hmong women sitting in front of the edge which the other side was a way down to the rice field. I looked at four directions and there was only one concrete road, the one I was walking. Everywhere was a soil, mud and cart-road. I asked the woman which way to go and they showed me to go along the cart-road. She even offered to lead the way for me. I accepted it even though I felt unneccessary.
I have to say my intuition was fully right. After a while another woman joined as well. Not long later both of them had to hold my arm from both side to bring me on the slippery, muddy road. I really didn’t know where I was. Since the terrace rice fields were all on the side of the mountain there were many slopes. Imagine yourself going up and down the slippery, muddy slope. Sometimes we even had to cross an extremely narrow road where the width was only the size of my foot. Up and down was the rice field. So if I slipped I would fell into the mud. The least thing I wanted to happen. But I did stepped in the mud and my shoes became awful. Sometimes I even had to knee down the mud in order not to slip.
However, the scenery was more than wonderful. I had to ask them to take a picture of me as it was the most breathtaking one. I was struggling with the mud but couldn’t take my eyes off the yellow, ready to harvest rice field. It all looked like a masterpiece painting. Seeing the whole scene made me feel like this struggle was all worth it. I didn’t only see the rice field but I was walking between it. Seeing the crops from a near distance was like analyzing the details of an amazing scene.
Life in the rice field
On the road I tried to talk to the women and I asked them if they had to walk up and down on rice field like this everyday. They said yes and even though they got used to it, it was still difficult. Especially in the rain. To be honest I couldn’t imagine how their life must be. Everyday climbing up and down the field on the mountain side. The whole area was in the mountain valley. The houses weren’t near to each other either. It was an incredible fact that my mind couldn’t accept. I just simply didn’t believe in the 21st century someone had to live the lifestyle of the medieval era.
This gave me a mixed feeling. On one hand I felt how precious it was to have a natural scenery in the modern age. On the other hand I felt sorry for these people and especially for the kids for living in an area where the road wasn’t easy at all. But as I heard they got used to it and wouldn’t change and live in the city either. After all thanks to tourism and the trekking tours the locals’ life is better now.
As for me the scenery was so fascinating that I really hoped I could stay in one of the homestay there. The homestays are operated by the Hmong people and you get to live with the local and enjoy the terrace rice field all day. Next time when I come back I will definitely live with the local.
Scrolling ourselves all through the field took at least 2 hours. In the beginning I thought it would take maximum 30 minutes. We even stopped twice on the road. There wasn’t a lot of people there. Mainly the Westerners were on trekking tour. Every tour group needed a local person to lead the way beside their tour guide.
The end of trekking
We crossed a bamboo forest as well. It was amazing to see the real bamboo forest. Even though the one in Ulsan was pretty too, but this one was in the nature. But the mosquitoes. They were just irritating. It wasn’t enough that my legs were all muddy but the mosquitoes as well. We finally got out to the concrete road and the waterfall.
The women asked me to buy their handmade products. I didn’t want to spend money, but the other Hmong women already surrounded me and stared at me. I felt if I didn’t buy anything there would be a huge fight. Moreover the two women helped me wholeheartedly all through the road. Without them I would have to crawl all along the mud. Their purse, scarf, bag was a real masterpiece. The most important was that it was handmade. So I bought a scarf and a wallet which cost 350.000VND. Not the cheapest one but I think it was worth it. They gave two handmade bracelet as a gift.
Then I walked out to the entrance. The scenery was still the same. One side was the mountain, the other side was the rice field. Difference was the concrete road. However, I didn’t know how long I had to walk to arrive back to Sapa. 13km didn’t help me to guess the time. Moreover I was exhausted from scrolling through the muddy field, I was hungry and didn’t feel myself anymore. The scene never changed so I wasn’t even sure whether I was going right way. I decided to call the motortaxi driver who took me there. Turned out I didn’t even have signal to call. I guess between the mountains they had to use a different SIM card or I don’t know.
Walking a while I saw a motor repairer shop so I asked the owner to call the driver for me. To be honest I didn’t even know where I was. Luckily they even knew each other so the driver knew the way. While waiting I asked him how life was in the mountain. He said it was difficult but people found a way to earn their living. They either sell handmade bags, scarf, wallet like I bought. Either open a homestay, restaurant, do tourism or become a Xe Om driver. This is one of the trait of the Vietnamese people that I respect. No matter where they are, they always figure out a way to live. Let it be in the mountain or abroad. Vietnam might not be the richest country, but the citizen can always find a work to earn their living.
The driver came for me and took me back straight to my hotel. The road was as adventurous as the trekking. Arriving back he asked 60.000 VND. In total I paid him 110.000 VND to Ta Van (13km away) while the yesterday Xe Om to Cat Cat village (3km) back and forth was 80.000 VND. Grab or Goviet is not everywhere yet. If you meet traditional Xe Om drivers, you need to know the distance and be aware of the price.
When I arrived back, I spent almost 1 hour to wash my clothes and shoes. It was all mud. I took a shower, then went out to eat something. I found a vegan restaurant on the same road that lead to Ta Van. The scenery was miraculous. The blueish mountain covered by the fog and the terrace rice fields on its side. It was lovely to eat with a scene like that. I ate a vegan curry and drank tea, it all cost 110.000 VND.
At home I only had a rest and enjoyed the night view of Sapa which was all covered in mist as if the town was in the cloud. I prepared my stuff to get ready for the next day leaving.