Monday, September 27, 2010

….and up the hill we go.....

For the hotel in Lao Cai, I got reeeaaallly lucky: Ha, the owner of the Anh Phoung II and her lovely English-speaking daughter “Tina” [DON'T THINK thass a native Viet name from ten centuries ago] gave me information, free moon cake, tea and cheap beer. Building was rather new, room was very clean and had new air-conditioning. GREAT staff....really helpful and friendly.

Lao Cai is the type of place that you PASS THROUGH on your was to Kunming, China or Sapa, Vietnam.....there really is no reason to stay in Lao Cai unless you need a rest and a place to crash. I needed both.

There is precious little info as to which hotels in Lao Cai don't suck....since nobody wants to write about Lao Cai except to say, like a policeman at a car crash - “There's nothing to see here...please keep moving” I got lucky that I found a real gem!

'Course, TRIED to pop this place onto Trip Advisor, and they come back with some shit like - “Uhhhh....yeeaaah. We don't know about this hotel, so bring it to our attention first, we'll look into it, and THEN we'll allow you to write a review on this place!”

I mean – after getting that response, I could only sit there, like, WHAT THE FUCK?? I mean – is gonna FLY SOMEBODY OVER TO LAO CAI to verify this hotel?? Or do they have a network of spies in every town and village that they contact for verification??

Left Lao Cai around 1:30pm after doing about an hour's worth of research on Trip Advisor trying to find a hotel in Sapa that didn't blow. Spent AN HOUR doing this because I was over-confident that the skooter WOULD make it up the hill to Sapa.

Headed up the Sapa road. Sign said that I was 35Km away. The first 15 kilometres were a gradual rise and were OK and not terribly threatening.

THEN, the final 20Km is where things rapidly began to suck! The grade began getting steeeeep to the point where 30 kilometres per hour was taxing the engine BADLY, landslides would close the lane I was in every 5 kilometres (thank Christ I didn't encounter any live landslides....that woulda put a damper on my fun), and there was a heavy mist and a blinding fog and the temperature had dropped about 5 degrees (or about 9 degrees F) every two thousand feet. Plus, sheer vertical drops and no guardrails only added to the fun and games.

Mud-caked, cold, wet, pissy, and just fucking relived......I pulled into the village of Sapa an hour later.

AND, after driving around the village for another hour, I FINALLY found one of the six hotels I had put on my “seems acceptable list” for Sapa. Finally found the Sapa Summit hotel. Decent place with a nice view for 350,000VND, but a 1 KM hike into the main downtown area of the village (where the markets, shops, bars, cafes, etc. are). GREAT walk down to the village....SHITTY walk back up to the hotel (given that I haven't resided at elevation in over six years and that I “accidentally forgot” to quit smoking).

So, tried a couple other hotels over the next couple days while eating curry from an Indian restaurant, French toast from a Western restaurant, shopping, and just bumming around town, dancing with happiness that I finally found Tay food again, when I decided to text my bud Finchy.

“So, how was the Northern Route?”

“Great! Awesome! So, we're in Viet Quang and we're gonna vege and check the marketplace in Bac Ha village tomorrow morning!”

“Viet Quang???!? Bac Ha?!!? Dude, on my map thass a fucking HAUL over some not-nice roads to Sapa. You SURE that you're gonna make it to Sapa tomorrow before sundown?” (like we had agreed upon)

“Uhhh....gonna hang here and catch the marketplace at [some little tiny bumblefuk village] that only happens on Tuesdays. So, we'll prolly be in Sapa on Tuesday.”

“WHAT?? Uhhh, Dude?? We had agreed a couple days ago that we are to meet up in Sapa on SUNDAY! I have been hanging here since Friday Afternoon! What the fuck??!? Naw, Dude, I ain't hanging here for another four days! Besides, we hafta make it to Dien Bien Phu (where Vietnamese peasants/fighters defeated the French in 1953) and Mai Chau (cool looking White Thai ethnic minority village near the Laos border)!!!”

“Ahhh.....yeaaahh....wellllll.....just come on up and meet us here in [inset name of some little tiny bumblefuk village here] and catch up with us there. Ummm....yeah, well.....we kinda took too long on The far northern loop that we took, and we really want to see these marketplaces, so we're gonna hafta take a pass on Dien Bien Phu and Mai Chau........”

“Uhhh...we had agreed to meet in Sapa on Sunday, otherwise I wouldn'ta rushed up here!! And I do NOT feel like fucking back-tracking....and I really wanted to see Mai Chau and Dien Bien Phu!! WTF? Woulda been nice for you to tell me this BEFORE I hit Sapa. Fine, whatever.....I'll be heading out on my own.”

Reeeaaaalllly truthfully pissed me off, as it pretty much wrecked the entire ride that we'd been planning for over a year and fucked up my vacation.....a vacation that I caught A LOT OF SHIT FOR from my wife an several friends on Facebook for taking off from home for 2 ½ weeks!

So, I thought that I would just vege in Sapa and enjoy the perpetual wall of white (BLINDING cloud fog) that resided outside my balcony all day/every day.

Truthfully?? I REEAAALLLY enjoyed it! It reminded me of home, and the roads outside of Sapa reminded me, both – climate and geography – of Highway 6 throgh Oregon's Coast Mountain Range! This bought MUCH happiness to me, made me less homesick, and thusly, I was in NO hurry to get back to the hell hole that is Hai Phong. Took a stunning ride further up into the mountains and stopped by a tiny Hmong hamlet and bought a couple gifts for Tam and Emily.

It was Saturday afternoon here, so I figgered I'd eat happily, drink at a few bars, shop a bit and vege and, on Sunday at midnight, I'd watch the Bills debacle online (since Sapa is a reasonably developed tourist village with lotsa Wi-Fi), crash after The Bills game at 4AM and leave Tuesday morning for Hai Phong!

On Sunday at noon, got to my next hotel, got to my connects to Wi-Fi, but Wi-Fi does NOT connect to Internet. Told the front desk....they said they'd have somebody repair it this afternoon.

Six Internet....getting nervous.....

Finally at 6:30pm, a guy comes over and starts looking at the Internet and Wi-Fi routers.  The Wi-Fi router in the first floor lobby/cafe works fine, but the one on the top floor of the hotel ain't connecting to The 'Net!!  This guy really did not appear to have a clue, so I took matters into my own hands.  I grab a stool to stand on, reach the router, pull the plug out for five minutes, plug it back in. 

No dice.

Punch the "reset" button in the back of the thing for ten seconds..... dice.

Gave up - figgering that either the wiring is bad or the router itself (which did not have "Made in USA" or "Made in Japan" on the back of it, but rather "Made in Hurry") was shot.  Ask to change to a different room in a different part of the hotel and looked at three different rooms and the Wi-Fi reception was shit in all of them.  This is due to the fact that the Vietnamese have NO structures made of wood or gypsum drywall, but rather thee thickest, most durable concrete known to man!

Wi-Fi don't be liking thick, durable concrete, so it was a shit signal no matter WHICH room I chose.  So, I grabbed a room abut 30 metres from the Wi-Fi router in the lobby/cafe.  Put the laptop on a bamboo desk that I moved to right in front of the wooden door and got a tolerable signal.

Surfed the 'Net, called my wife and then my mom, and at 11:30pm, settled down and watched the pre-game show!

11:55PM - 5 minutes before the Bills-Patriots kickoff.....*Boooooooooo-whooop*!

Power cut. Unreal.....

I followed what appeared to be a really exciting football game on my cell fone (NO video or audio - just text play-by-play) until halftime, when my battery died!

Juice came back on at 11AM - 11 hours later.

Power cuts are a fact of life in Vietnam.  In the main part of the country, during the summer drought this year, Hai Phong lost power once every two days for 12 hours at a time.  But in Sapa, they have power outages during the best of times (something about how, due to their location, they get their electricity from China or some shit like that).  But when the Bills offense finally woke up this season, the Sapa power grid took a nap!


So I'm writing this whole thing off and decided to see Mai Chau another time (IF there IS another time before we move back to The States), heading out back towards Hai Phong tomorrow morning (Tuesday).  Gonna take a back mountain route back to Hanoi then Hai Phong ('cause I'd already seen whass on the way when I took the main road here).  This will prolly consist of a buncha tiny-ass villages and Internet on this route should be about as common as, say, the Bills making the playoffs. 

I'll try to post NEXT stop where I can get Internet.....if zero Internet, I'll be back in Hanoi Thursday or Friday....and I KNOW they got working Internet there.

In the meantime - enjoy some National Geographic-type pics -

Main street of Sapa Village

Views from the balconies of various hotels in Sapa...

The road from Lao Cai to Sapa!

NO!  Jes' givin' ya shit....this appeared to be some sort of power line trail I saw on the ride to this little remote Hmong village about 10 miles outside of Sapa.  Went up another 500 feet or so in elevation....saw waterfalls and got Tam and Emily some gifts there.

More views from the ride up to the remote Hmong village at the Lao Cai - Lai Chau provincial border.

Brekker in the dark during the power outage.

Hmong people


Hell, we'll throw in a coupla videos shot frm the balcony of my hotel room at the Hotel Pinocchio taken a few hours apart -

More from wherever I get Internet on the way back to Hai Phong!!


P.S. - For further reading:


HRD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HRD said...

" ... a vacation that I caught A LOT OF SHIT FOR from my wife an several friends on Facebook for taking off from home for 2 ½ weeks! "

Not cool for Tam and others to give you what-for on this. Clearly you'll do the same for Tam when she needs a getaway ... minding the kid, the business and the household for 2-1/2 weeks ...

You'll do the same for her.

Oh, wait ...


CN250 said...

I WOULD do the same for her, actually! I actively encourage her to go piss off forra week or so, but, for some reason (*THINK* she's too concerned about Emily and the school as well), she never leaves the house...go figger.....