Hanoi Side-Trips

After the family left we took a couple side trips before flying halfway home.

Sapa is in the Northwest corner of Vietnam. We took overnight trains to get there and back. Then spent a couple days trekking with one night at a homestay and another at a hotel.

We almost didn’t go to Sapa because we had heard from other travelers that the weather was pretty bad. One couple traveled up on one night train and left town on the very next night train because the fog was so terrible. So we were kind of risking it with this trip. In the end it turned out quite well – we had one day of decent weather before the clouds rolled in. So we could see far enough in front of us to glimpse these amazing views:



Our guide, Thai, leading the way through the fields.


First day of hiking

First day of hiking


Luckily our guide and the other travelers in our hiking group were all really awesome and we had a fun day hiking, learning about the area, sharing travel stories, eating meals, drinking rice wine, and playing cards together.



Our awesome group eating dinner at the homestay. Cale, Jon and Emily from the U.S., Hringur and Erna from Iceland, Mauricio and Natalia from Columbia, and Thai from Vietnam!


We left our homestay after the first night and continued trekking. Emily and Jon had been trying to figure out an opportunity to gift several pairs of reading glasses to some of the women in the villages.  A family friend of theirs who lives in Hanoi had given them a package of glasses with instructions on how to check vision using postcards with different-sized letters and distributing glasses of varying prescriptions.

Any hikers that come to Sapa are followed by an entourage of local women who assist you on the trail (whether you like it or not) and then try and sell their handwoven products at the end of your hike. They speak enough English to ask where you’re from, whether you have siblings, and whether you are married with kids- but not any more than that. So mid-way through our hike on day 2, Emily and Jon decided to figure out if the women in our entourage needed the glasses.  First they gave them postcards to look at, then handed out the glasses. There was obviously a language barrier but they were able to pass out the glasses and the women tried them on.  Immediately they put down the postcards and looked at the stitching in their clothing (which is exactly what the family friend said would happen). In this way they were able to figure out who could use which prescription.  It was so fun to see them getting excited that they could see their stitching more clearly- this is their livliehood and a pair of glasses that isn’t otherwise accessible out in the hills of Vietnam was a welcome gift. There aren’t any Walgreens, Bartells, or 7-11’s in the hills of Sapa.


Testing the prescriptions



Emily and Jon with our group of ladies and their new glasses.


After our prescription party, the fog rolled in and didn’t leave for for the next two days but we were still happy to be hiking and active.


Foggy water buffalo.


Our 7th and last train ride in Vietnam. Also the nicest.

Our 7th and last train ride in Vietnam. Also the nicest.

We spent our last few days in Hanoi drinking egg coffee (kind of like coffee with Tom and Jerry’s mix on top), going for runs at Lenin Park, and we took one last side trip to Tam Coc where we were rowed down a river by a lady using her feet to paddle, through rice fields and under caves.







We topped it all off with a bike ride in the pouring rain. Cale, as we left town for our freezing cold, wet, hour long bike ride: “Well this is fun!!!!”


You can’t quite tell but we are completely soaked through and our faces are dripping with rainwater.

It’s bittersweet to be ending this trip but we are so excited to come home! Next stop: USA!