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.
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.
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.
After spending a whole day walking around the city, we began to get accustomed to all the traffic, sidewalks were crowed with vietnamese people offering to sell you anything and everything, asking if we want a taxi, sunglasses, magnets ect. We learned very quickly to just keep walking and not make any eye contact. Instead of staying to the main streets we also learned that some of the best tasting and cheapest options for food are down the alleys. We found a wonderful breakfast nook where we went during the mornings to grab breakfast and coffee with milk for just 90,000 VND ($3.96) for the both of us. As a coffee drinker, I instantly fell in love with vietnamese coffee so we came back each morning to have a coffee and grab some breakfast.
While walking around the city we also found out that going directly to the source for bus tickets and for tour tickets is the best way to get the cheapest price. We found a company called The Sinh Tourist who we booked open bus tickets through which are bus tickets that go to our destinations and we can hop on and off when we wanted to. We bought 5 bus tickets (Ho Chi Minh > Dalat > Nah Trang > Hoi An > Hue > Hanoi) for $37 USD each and as long as we use them within a one month time then we are good to go! After pricing around tours in Ho Chi Minh we found this same company the cheapest so we also purchased a tour to go on the Mekong Delta River for only $17 USD for us both for a full day which included transportation to the river, a motorboat ride up the river, lunch which included Mekong river fish, tasted coconut candy and saw the process of how to make it, also got to try some fresh fruit and see a local band! It was defiantly a steal of a deal as Lucas would say! Lucas even took a shot of “snake wine” which he said tasted like vodka or ever clear. All in all the tour was about 9hrs total.
Next up was the Chu Chi tunnels tour which i didn’t do because i’m deathly afraid of small/tight spaces. It was only a half day about 6hrs total and set us back about $10 USD total after entrance fee and tour cost. These tunnels were built during the American war by hand, which is mind blowing! As you can see in the pictures there wasn’t nearly enough room to standup in the tunnels. Lucas of course did the longest tunnel at 60 meters long. He had a guide the entire time and got to try a plant that was much like a potato and some really nice tea. After that we had the option to shoot an Ak47 but they wanted 50k VND per round of ammo plus it was only semi automatic, boo. Lastly he watched a short movie about the war which he felt was very one sided and made him feel a little uncomfortable blaming the U.S. government for killing innocents. Loading up in the bus with the long drive back and nobody that could speak english got him thinking of war and what comes with it…
After finally securing our transportation we walked around a little more stumbling across the Saigon Central Market where we found tons of really cheap food. We tried a thing or two from a few of the vendors and all of it was amazing. After our bellies were content Lucas headed off for his tour of the Chu Chi Tunnels. Tunnels are not my thing so I opted for a $2 pedicure and blog time instead 🙂
As you can tell (since its been 2 weeks since our last post) we have been quite busy!
When we first arrived to our stopping point of Healy, Ak, where we would be spending our time until September-October. We wondered what we were going to do on our days off with it being such a “small town”. Healy, Alaska has a population of around 1,000 people (in the winter). Now in the summer time that number pretty much triples, with all the people flying and driving in to work. Tourists come in from the train and cruise boats to adventure in and around Denali National Park. Healy is a nice little town, everyone here is very welcoming and helpful no matter the circumstance. Anyway we have had no shortage of finding things to do. Between going hiking, four wheeling, meeting Jeff King ( Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Champion), rafting down the Nenana River, Zip Lining through the Talkeetna forest and over a lake, a Discovery Boat Tour in Fairbanks and a couple dinner & theater shows “Music in Denali” and “Alaskan Cabin Nite Theater”.
Jeff King’s Husky Homestead – Dog mushing in general is a huge sport in Alaska. Competitors prepare all year long for this 1,100 mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. We wanted to know more about the sport itself and what kind of training and preparation went into the event itself so we came across Jeff’s Husky Homestead. We hopped on the shuttle bus that took us down south past the Denali National Park entrance, when we arrived we were greeted by over 60 dogs, including a new litter of puppies that were about 10 weeks old. As the puppies got passed around to be held (this is actually part of the puppies training, to be held by numerous people and socialize them well) we awaited our turn and then passed them on to the next people. When everyone had there chance to cuddle and play with the new litter we were seated and Jeff started letting us in on his ways of training the dogs for the big race! Fun fact, the dogs eat about 2,000 calories of food per day during the summer months vs. 5,000 calories per day in winter months when not racing and 10,000 calories during the race each day! They sure are lean, mean, calorie burning machines! (they’re not really mean, they actually all have sweet personalities and love to play and be petted) Let me tell you though, once they know that they are fixing to be hooked up to the sled to race (or a four wheeler in the summer months), they are in race mode! They know exactly what is fixing to happen and they get very excited to do what they do best. Jeff was very insightful about how he prepares for the race, another fun fact, the entry fee for the Iditarod Race is $3,000 and each team can have up to 16 dogs per sled but no less than 6 dogs per sled by the end of the race. (Its very common for dogs to be sent home during the race if they are not performing up to par or if one gets injured.) Jeff had a special all in one sleeping bag/snowsuit made to accommodate him to save time and space on the trail which was made of goose down from Cabela’s as it can get down to -50 degrees on the trail during the race. Overall our trip to Jeff’s Husky Homestead was a great experience and very informative. Special thanks to Jeff King and his crew!