After seeing all that Hanoi has to offer a Westerner, we started our planning for the north...what an accomplishment that can be! You have be aware of every thing they tell you as they are most likely leaving out the most important pieces of information...for example the hotel name, your tour name, and perhaps getting the taxi to pick you up at the right time to not miss the train that only leaves once a day. Well we certainly lived and learned a lot from our first tour booking AND surprisingly enough we actually went back to the same travel agent(to book Ha Long Bay) as she is pretty much the only one we trust after shopping around for a bit. Once we were squared away on the sleeper train up to Lao Cai (9hrs), we figured we were well on our way to a good time. Well, after a couple of times of them not having our names or not knowing where we were going we truly were on our way and it was BEAUTIFUL up there. We were picked up by our local village tour guide, Coo, to begin our first trek to her village Black H'mong. It was so interesting to see all these ethnic minorities in the north of Vietnam. They're so rich in culture and extremely strong willed in their dedication to the land. After trying to get pushed out of their land, of course, the government realized they would make more money if they turned it into a tourist attraction. So like many places they now resort to selling their handmade items in exchange for money. I really enjoyed meeting with them, hearing their stories, and of course enjoying their home cooked meals. We (Me, Derek, Elodie & Marie -- our 2 new Frenchies, and Anthony the Kiwi) were so graciously invited to stay with a family at a homestay. They cooked us a feast and they even made me this amazing tofu dish special for me (don't worry i got the recipe...1 pinch of this and 1 pinch of that taste and serve). After our 2 days of village people and trekking, we went over to their big Sunday market (Bac Ha Market). It was clear the difference between the local market and the tourist market (see pics...beware: those living animals will not be alive by dinner time). The landscapes and the people were amazing...Good times in northern Vietnam.
We came back this morning on another overnight sleeper train and booked our Ha Long Bay trip with our friend the agent...she was so happy to see us and don't worry we had a few kind words to share with her. She laughed when we wanted a minute by minute play by play itinerary for this trip. After Ha Long Bay we will be making our way down to Saigon with some stops on the way...stay tuned.