The Not So Little Sa Pa

DSC01402

IMG_6914

After Spending 9 hours on a motorbike to get from Moc Chau to Sa Pa we were ready to settle down and spend some good quality time in one place to let our butts rest! As we drove into Sa Pa ready to get a goods night rest we realized just how large Sa Pa really was. Our first impression of the city from the short drive to our hotel was that tourism has really hit Sa Pa hard! So much construction has completely taken over the city, every corner you turn to there is new buildings going up, sidewalks being reworked, remodels of old hotels & restaurants and so much dirt and debris filling the air and streets. We stayed one night in the city and decided that it was too much for us so we found a homestay about 15km from the city where we could escape the hustle and bustle of the growing center.

Our homestay (Stunning View Homestay) was nestled in the semi quiet area across from Ta Van Village. (It was right off the road which was convenient but a little noisy) For the price we could not beat it as it was $7 USD for a private room with breakfast for both of us included (with coffee too!) One thing to note, we witnessed the housekeeping not changing sheets in between guests. When one guest checked out they simply dusted off the bed folded the blanket and invited the next guests in. After that we used our own sheets and blankets that we brought as we couldn’t trust how many people have slept on the same sheets without being changed in between. They are a newly opened homestay, so of course we mentioned to them some things they could change, which they appreciated.

The best thing about the homestay were the people we met and the food that was cooked.  We finally after a month on the road in Vietnam, met some ladies from America (Lexi from Washington & Jen from Oregon) and a sweet couple from England (Emily and Fin) whom we roamed about with during our 5 days in the village. We had a very eventful few days, exploring around the villages, visiting Silver Falls, walking around Sa Pa trying to find the best deals on outdoor gear for everyone, and eating our fair share of wonderful food and coffee.

DSC01477

We took some time yesterday and stopped for an oil change and a carb clean on the motorbike before settling in for the night ( the shop was right down the road from our homestay) The gentleman was so kind and young, him and Lucas instantly connected and chatted away via google translate. As he finished up our oil change and carb clean he kindly invited us to join him and his family for a home cooked dinner, so of course we accepted. We sat around the table eating a delicious home cooked vietnamese meal laughing the night away with this sweet young couple and there 4 year old son.

IMG_6868

Today we went out for one last trek around the villages and had three young girls help us along the path to our destination, surprisingly they spoke english fairly well they made us crowns out of ferns and horses out of stems from the ferns. They were so sweet and very talented!

Our time in Sapa has come to an end today after 6 total days. We will surely miss our new friends but will forever remember our wonderful adventure in Sa Pa.

IMG_6887IMG_6697

 

 

Off on Another Adventure

DSC01382

Arriving in Hanoi, it had been 17 days since we landed in Vietnam. When we first arrived in Ho Chi Minh we purchased open bus tickets to get us up to Hanoi, and now that we had used all of our tickets, it was time to plan the next phase of our trip here.

We had been doing some research for the last few weeks and kept tossing the idea of purchasing a motorbike in Northern Vietnam to get us around instead of hopping on the bus. Sleeper buses are nice and all but the routes in North Vietnam are very mountainous and pretty sketchy when traveling at night (most buses are night buses) so traveling via bus just did not appeal to either one of us as it was too much risk. So we searched for a hours and low and behold we are now owners of a Honda Win that we purchased for $175 USD. That same day we packed our bags, loaded our route on Google maps and made our first leg of the trip to Mai Chau.

3 hours into our ride as we were enjoying the wind in our hair and the wonderful scenery we were waved down by a man and his sister who were heading in our direction. Something was not right with our back tire, we felt something was off and stopped a few times to check it out but nothing caught our eye. This time when we pulled off, the man (named CJ) helped us communicate with the motorbike shop to check out what was wrong and help us fix it. So thankful he was able to translate for us.  Turns out the wheel needed to be re-spoked, so we sat and talked with CJ while the work was being done. Turns outs he and his sister were heading to Moc Chau, just a hour or so above our destination in Mai Chau. They kindly waited for our bike to get done so that we could make the forward drive together as it was getting dark (safer to drive in groups especially at night) They offered us oreos, milk and some great conversation making the time that we waited go by really quick. So 150,000 VND later ($7) and a newly spoked rim we were on our way to Mai Chau.

DSC01211

IMG_6555 (1)

Our first day in Mai Chau we ventured off and hiked 1200 steps to see the beautiful Chieu Cave, its amazing how much of a temperature change there was from outside the cave to the inside. After walking up and down that many steps we were completely worn out the rest of the day so we caught up on laundry, played some pool, and walked around the village we were staying in. We had planned to stay in Mai Chau longer but we hit the road the next day to meet up with our new friends CJ and Na Pham in Moc Chau for some camping and trekking.

On our way to Moc Chau, we had another issue from the same wheel/tire, this time it was flat! We limped the bike back downhill to the closest motorbike shop, and while we were waiting for that to get replaced Lucas played some soccer with the local kids who were waiting for school to start, and I helped the others with some english words which they were so eager to learn.

We yet again hit the road this time ready to put some miles in between us and Mai Chau but again were faced with another issue with the motorbike. Not even 15 minutes after we left the motorbike shop with a new tire, the bike lost power going up hill! We pulled over to find that oil was leaking out from the top of the motor (crankcase vent tube) We thought for sure our bike was toast and that we’d be hitch hiking our way back down to Hanoi but when we called our friend CJ to let him know we’d be late, he came to our rescue once more, he made the drive to us (about an hour round trip) and helped us translate once again to the shop what we needed and was there for us for any assistance.  A new head gasket was put in and we were on our way, we can not thank CJ enough for all his assistance the last few days with our bike, it made it so much easier to have him there and to help us translate as we would have been surely taken advantage of as most foreigners are but CJ made sure that we were taken care of, a true friend and a genuine good man.

Finally making it to Moc Chau after a full morning of mishaps, we were ready to take a break and spend time with our new friends. We had plans to camp in Pine Forest the first night which was such an amazing time. We drove out to the forest, set up our tents and hammocks, cooked dinner over the campfire and sat talking the night away. What a wonderful break from hotels and hostels!

We woke up from camping really early (5am) packed up everything and had big plans for the day to visit Pha Luong Mountain, which was from the pictures had an amazing lookout at the peak, and the scenery would be to die for! It is a natural boundary between Vietnam and Laos so you need to do paperwork at the station to be able to make the trek. But what we didn’t know is that since we are foreigners they do not allow you to go up there, unless you have the right paperwork, and that could take you up to 2 months! Sadly we were not prepared this time, we didn’t realize it was so hard to get the correct paperwork and the time it took to do so. The roads throughout the villages going towards the station were pretty rough especially on a motorbike I believe it took about an hour to go 2km. Sadly we had to turn around at the top but the drive out there was breathtaking and so much fun! When we came back down, we stopped by two waterfalls (Chieng Khoa & Ban Yem waterfall).

As we made our way to the hostel for the night, we all decided that our last night in Moc Chau we wanted to go camping again, we had such a wonderful time the first go around so why not at the beautiful waterfall we had just seen a few hours before! On our way back to the waterfall to set up camp the next day, we took a detour and visited a small village outside of Moc Chau. Even one of the buffalo were so surprised to see us, he kept starring at us and making these odd looking faces, it was hysterical!  It was a perfect end to a wonderful trip to Moc Chau. We had such a great time with our new friends, we will definitely miss them and all our CRAZY adventures 🙂

DSC01341

 

The Kalalau Trail

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

IMG_5365

IMG_5323

The Kalalau Trail is listed as one of the worlds most dangerous hikes, of course just the sound of that makes my nerves cringe a little bit but of course for my husband he wants to mark every hike on that list off 🙂 When we both decided we wanted to tackle this hike back in January we each had our different reasons. His of course was primarily because its on the list of worlds most dangerous hikes, but also because its the only land access to Kalalau beach and along the Napali Coast. This hike for me was not about marking a dangerous hike off, it was about facing fears of heights, and knowing that I can do anything that I set my mind to. After purchasing our permits, there was no turing back. So for the following 3 months we researched, planned….packed….unpacked…. and repacked until we had exactly what we needed narrowed down.

March 19 finally rolled around and we were passed ready to experience this highly sought after trail for ourselves. Lucas was extremely excited, so was I, but I also had some nerves growing the last couple weeks leading up to this day. I had a backup plan if I ever HAD to turn around but the second we began the trail, I knew I would be just fine! We had woken up to a beautiful, flawless weather forecast for the two days we would be on the trail, and I knew without a doubt that was God’s way of telling me that “I got this!” Because if we had any chance of rain in the forecast the trail conditions would drastically change and become very dangerous, making the trail even more frightening and technical.

We began the trail at 7:00 am and quickly made it to Hanakapei Beach (2 miles in). We have done this part of the trail numerous times and easily crossed over the river and took a break along the beach for a few minutes. This part of the trail and beach are always extremely packed so one nice thing about leaving out so early is being able to enjoy the trail by yourself.

After we put our packs back on, we ventured up the hill to the next phase of the trail, beginning a new part of the path we have not yet explored. From here on out all the views and ridges were new to us so we took our time and paced along snapping photos and taking breaks when needed. The first few miles until you get to Hanakoa Camp (6 mile mark) are fairly easy, with the trail going up and down along the ridge as well as through the jungle. From mile 6 on it gets a little technical in some spots. Loose rocks, steep cliffs and of course “crawlers ledge”. For a few weeks leading up to the trip i did a lot of research on Crawlers ledge, probably watched way to many videos and kinda freaked myself out. I am not terrified of heights but am bothered by them a little bit so I wanted to be prepared. As we came up to mile 7 and were fixing to face crawlers ledge (actually a little past 7 miles) we quickly realized it wasn’t as bad as its made out to be. Sure its definitely a sheer drop off, and there is possibility of someone easily falling off if your not careful with your footing, but its no where near as sketchy as many make it out to be. I personally felt there were way worse parts of the trail where you could easily have slipped and fell, at least on crawlers ledge its solid rock instead of loose dirt and small rocks. Take it slow and watch where you put your feet, and of course if you want to look around make sure you stop first!

After mile 7 it felt like we were so close to being there, only 4 miles left and we would finally be able to enjoy the majestic Kalalau Beach, we were totally looking forward to jumping into the water! The shade along the trail began to get slimmer and slimmer and we were pretty much out in the open with the sun beaming down on us the rest of the way. As we neared “clay hill” we were greeted in the distance by the beautiful secluded beach we had traveled so far to see. Trying not to get barn fever as Lucas calls it, (where as you get closer to your destination you speed up unknowingly) we made our way closer and closer until we finally stepped foot on the sands! 7 hours of hiking and we made it! The feeling when you finally get there is unbelievable!

DCIM101GOPRO

We quickly found a spot to set up our camp and go check out the waterfall to cool off. Afterwards we headed to the beach to walk around and explore the caves! Such a neat place to be! Between the waterfall, caves, amazing beach and diversity of people, our experience will without a doubt be one for the books! We met some amazing people who each had there own reasons from making the trek. We met people from all over including a couple from Victoria Canada who were trail running along the way (totally impressive!), a super funny gentleman from Dubai who no matter what was going to find a way to not have to hike back out (he was hilarious and had such a fun personality!), and a super sweet couple from New Zealand which we hiked out with the next day just to find out they had no idea the trail was on the list of worlds most dangerous hikes, but they excelled on the trip and made it there and back no problem.

Our trip was one we will never forget. It was physically exhausting and mentally trying but the entire time we were surrounded by pure beauty. Every turn, every ridge (I believe there were 5) had its own unique setting, the further we went on trail the more beautiful the Napali Coast became, urging us to keep going, and we’re so glad we did because we will never forget it!

IMG_5422