Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28th Bac Ha to Lao Cai City and then overnight train to Hanoi

The loudspeakers on the street thankfully shut down in Bac Ha around 9 pm only to restart at 6 am after morning verspers of cocks.  Breakfast featuring rare papaya and the usual bowls of cold fried eggs and Chinese noodles and doughy bread and suspect jelly.

Highlight of the day was to be the Sunday market in Bac Ha where the H'mong people descend from the hills with their wares.  And it did not disappoint.  The most colourful market in every sense of the trip.  H'mong in their multiple layered brocades (females only) selling the kitchen sink but not pulling at your coattails:  most of the sales seemed to be among themselves.  Live fish in concrete pools, scaling and cleaving fins, live water buffalo, short horses (we've seen very few horses all month), pot-bellied pigs in grain bags with snouts protruding, baskets, bags, ducks, chickens, dogs, linens, chilis, peanuts, star anise, cardamon, kits, cats, ...  All  going to and for sale.  And a food court:  Metrotown move over!  Dare you to eat anything and come out alive.

After, we descended off the mountain for a two hour boat ride up and down the Sang Tchay river.  Sandstone cliffs, many butterflies, a couple of sandpipers and unidentified raptor the only birds.  Then lunch, good lunch, last lunch together.  Speeches and gifts and tips to the crew.

Then back in the vans the same way we rode yesterday into Lao Cai City:  clear evidence that you experience so much more from the saddle but able to piece together the whirr as we spun yesterday.  The whirr is banana plantations, veneer wood plants, tea groves, and winding busy highway.

Showers at the hotel and cleaning shoes and dinner (again) and on the train tonight armed with playing cards and cookies and mandarins.  Train was bearable.  Four to a room.  Washrooms not great.

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