Sapa, the coldest town in Vietnam. The train arrived in Lao Cai, the end of the line, at 5:00am & I took a minibus to town along with a slew of other tourists. By the time we arrived in Sapa, the sun was up, though there was a heavy mist hanging low over the mountains. Brr! It was cold!
I found a hotel for $6 & asked about trekking tours. Luckily, they had a tour that was leaving at 9:30am. I had time for breakfast & coffee before I met the tour guide. Nine of us hiked an 8-mile loop through the villages in the valley. The scenery became more & more beautiful as we decended the trail & the mist lifted. By lunchtime, the sun was shining, warming us up quite a bit.
We were followed the whole way by several minority tribe women carrying handicrafts for sale. Some of them were carrying babies strapped to their backs as well, swaddled in brightly colored fabrics. Many of the women wore flip flops as we trudged up rocky slopes & through the slippery mud. I of course had on my trusty hiking shoes, one of the marks of a true tourist.
When we finally reached the end of the trail, the tribal women began hawking their wares: "You buy from me! I follow you all day!" One of the members of our tour group kept buying & buying until the women were satisfied & bade us a fond farewell.