Sunday morning but no lie on, the girls have us called at 6.15am for breakfast and ready for checkout by 7.30 in time for a pick up by a tour guide for a days outing. First an hours journey to Lào Cai, where we will take the train back to Hanoi tonight. A very quick stop and we have an 85 km journey which will take us over two hours. Although Hanoi has had a lot of rain we are fortunate to have very good weather. Our destination is Bac Ha which has a large weekly market that is famous for its size, variety and numerous local ethnicities that attend in their local costume. The market has food, clothes, machinery, live animals, toys, crafts, gifts, spices, fruit, vegetables nearly anything you care to mention. But the bonus for me, is the rich culture from a photography perspective. Everywhere you look there are woman, men, children, animals, and artefacts to be photographed. The colour and texture is amazing and they are used to being photographed, as there are a huge number of visitors with cameras snapping everywhere. So we have from 10.30 to 13.00 to see everything and time just flies by. We had wondered if the long journey that wound its way along narrow windy roads rising higher into the mountains with 15 of us packed into a minibus would be worth it, but yes definitely. As an aside, nearly everywhere we have travelled around Sa Pa, Lào Cai, and Bac Ha, is marked with signs of construction. From small homes, outbuildings, to large hotels (particularly in Sa Pa) making you wonder if the whole place will be destroyed with new construction!
A quick lunch in Bac Ha at the market and we get back in the minibus for a sort journey to a tiny village where we can visit a local's house, garden and fields. The family was there and actually live in the house and it hits you how poor these people are and how primitive their dwellings are. After a vert short stay here we head back to Lào Cai for our dinner at 6.30. We arrive with a couple of hours to spare and Anh and Mai arrange for a taxi to take us around Lào Cai. It is quite a big town and the reason becomes apparent as it is on the border with China. First we are taken to a local temple, then the border gate where we can nearly touch China on the other side of the river and finally we are taken to a local market. The time until dinner flew by, and after dinner off to catch the overnight train back to Hanoi. It looks like the storm that tragically killed so many in the Philippines is now heading towards the Vietnamese Coast and will ultimately make its way to Hanoi. Hopefully it will have eased off and it will not cause as much destruction. From our own point of view we have to be concerned about getting our flights home on Tuesday.
Here is a samples of the photos taken today. I think I took about 300 in total, hopefully there is a handful of keepers!