June 27, 2010

last stop vietnam

really rough morning. arrived at the train station with no warning at 4:30AM. touts banging on our door trying to sell us minivan tickets into Sapa. by the time we get into a hotel in Sapa it is 7AM.  i get online and several people skype me as i have been out of touch for about a week.  i am in a really bad mood.  i am in a remote area of Vietnam with only 3 days left on my visa and no good plan on how to get overland through China to Hong Kong in the time frame i need for my return flight to the US. i am very cranky that i have to leave and i warn everyone i am talking to of my bad mood.

Sapa is postcard beautiful. a lush valley surrounded by slopes of tiered rice paddies and small villages of ethnic minority hill tribes with rich cultural traditions completely different from the Vietnamese.

 it is an oasis in the chaos that is Vietnam and made even better because i spend a few days with a really great couple from Belfast who shared their train berth with me.  one day we hire bikes and a guide [to drive mine] and cruise around to caves, villages and a waterfall.  the Hmong women at the caves smell cash and swarm all over Nicky and Michael.  our guide is a wealth of information and we quiz him about the culture and customs of the tribes.  he warns the women of some tribe have magic herbs which can make a man fall in love with the women.     

fellow travelers are giving me a tough time about leaving for China without a lonely planet guide. in Cambodia and Vietnam there is a micro industry of copying books and selling them cheap. so you can get a lonely planet copy for $1US - $3US. i have a whole list of excuses for them like i am too cheap or it is too heavy [lp china is 3 inches thick] or Chinese border officials are quite likely to take away a LP China and they have good solutions for every excuse. the truth is i am tired of relying on LP. i want to see if i can run the gauntlet of scams and the language barrier on my own plus i have the words Nick had written down for me.

i desperately need to know as this trip comes to an end that i have pushed myself outside my comfort zone and been open to experiences that come along instead of manufacturing them or relying on the experience of a LP writer.

throughout this trip i have used my instincts to guide me and it has served me well so i think i can rely on this to get me to Hong Kong. although when it's 1AM and i am still trying to book a flight from Kunming to Shenzhen i am cussing China before i even get there. i end up paying an extra $50US to book via Expedia because the websites for the Chinese airlines don't take credit cards. i am still pissed about the inflated price of Chinese visas for Americans and so if i hadn't paid for the visa i would skip China.

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