Cycling in Sapa

Blog Update Vietnam 9 January Day 2 

Ha Noi to Sapa
The early bus to Sapa – luxury bus meant that shoes were not allowed on the bus. I didn’t think this would be much of a problem. However it took about five minutes into the six hour journey for the local resident to complain to an Ozzie tourist about her smelly feet. Fortunately for me the smell did not permeate to my side of the bus. 
Another guy on the bus developed a serious case of bike envy when he saw our two Santa Cruz bikes being carefully loaded into the bus. 

Pics: Bus stop en route to Sapa and restaurant artwork. 

The scenery is starting to improve. Less old propaganda posters and more open spaces. Smoked / steamed mielies are available on the side of the highways. The manner in which one consumes them is slightly different here: each piece is carefully picked off the cob and eaten individually. Suppose it is a good way to pass the time on a bus trip. The inflight TV entertainment is the local version of 7de Laan with a prominent picture of George W Bush in the background. Go figure. At least I could convince my neighbour to turn the sound off. 
The major roads and highways are all elevated above the surrounding land. Makes sense when driving though the endless rice paddies, but not so much in town. The smog or mist seems to be pervasive. If it is smog then it probably comes from mainland China as there does not seem to be enough industry here to drive that much pollution into the air. Something else to research at some stage. But first we need to do some physical work. Legs are string to object to the extended periods of inactivity. The terrain is starting to morph into hills. The trees are taller. Mountain side agriculture. 

Pics: the white fungus drink is nutritional- not only because it says so, but because it tastes like a healthy drink. 

The last two hours of the bus trip entailed continuous climbing at about 40km/h through endless switchbacks and bends. It is an interesting feeling being on a bus overtaking a petrol tanker on an uphill blind switchback. (And we stalled on more than one occasion while overtaking – that caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth). This will make for good cycling later. 

Currently reading a book by a former Blackbird (SR-71) pilot and he is recounting the days when he flew F-4’s over northern Vietnam, dropping Snakeye bombs and Napalm. Definitely going to find some images from that era. 
After arriving in Sapa, surviving the onslaught of locals trying to sell local scarves and homestay accommodation, we cycled to a three star star hotel with a great view. 

Afternoon meant cycling down into the valley, strong coffee and heading back up the mountain. Fortunately the legs performed well considering the lack of training. 
Discussion topics included how insignificant and replaceable one becomes the more specialized one is and how it is virtually impossible to acquire the skills in a lifetime to harvest and create a pencil from scratch. 
Enough of the ramblings. Here are some pictures.  

Hard at work. Minimal protective gear. 

How to pimp the local church. 

Mist moving in and nighttime monuments. 

Tomorrow: we go up. 

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