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Sapa to Muang Nuoa

Off the beaten track and onto muddy dirt roads... several muddy dirt roads....

all seasons in one day 80 °F
View Southeast Asia & India on achamy's travel map.

Our hiking trip through the villages outside of Sapa turned out much differently than we planned. We were in Sapa during the height of their rainy season (read: it poured the next day nonstop). We were forced indoors to tasty Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk, loads of books, and a misty view of the mountains. The day was, without a doubt, thoroughly relaxing but it left us with the urge to hit the road once again and forgo our tour of the Hmong villages. We were particularly perturbed when Hmong villagers - imitating zombies - would claw at our hotel window saying repeatedly "Hello?! What is your name? You buy from me?". While at first the tired old women were charming, they quickly seemed suffocating and petulant. Laos it was.

While we booked a minivan to take us to Dien Bien Fu (the Vietnamese border town), it seemed our trip to Laos would be indefinitely postponed. The next morning, the countryside of Sapa was riddled with mudslides and impassable roads and we were told - after waiting 4 hours - that no bus would come! Much to our suprise 30 minutes after this announcement the minivan managed to overcome all manner of obstacles to retrieve us and a crew of Vietnamese and French to Dien Bien Fu. We spent the day gazing at the unreal terrain of mountains, rice paddies, and villages from our minibus. In Vietnam, the roads may have seemed normal. In America, they would be considered off-roading. Muddy (with the monsoon), extremely narrow, and winding through the mountains; it was an adventure. We stopped several times due to cars stuck in the mud and roads blockaded by debris.

We arrived in the miserable border town of Dien Bien Fu at nearly 21:00. The border town resembled all border towns - smelly, unorganized, and sad. But this was Vietnam at the rainy season late at night. We grinned and bore it and went directly to our hostel and slept a mere 5 hours and left the town as quickly as we could. As we rode off in our bus to Laos we glimpsed war monuments commemorating the French defeat in Indochina and the advent of American involvement in the Vietnam War. Strange that the only two groups of Westerners in the town that night were French and American. How is that for irony?

The next day was spent much like the first - windy roads, impassable terrain, and lots and lots of mud. In fact, this day was even more difficult than the first. However, our bus was built like a tank and got us to our destination - almost. Nearing the end of our trip we were impossibly stuck in a small muddy village with no food, little water, and ill tempers. After a few hours of waiting, we bought orange soda and got a local convenience store to make us Ramen. The salty MSG laden broth tasted nothing more than a slice of homemade heaven after no breakfast and lunch.

To our astonishment, we realized moments later we were within eye shot of our destination and all we had to do was walk a few feet up a hill and catch a ferry across the river. We could have been at the village 4 hours earlier with food in our stomache and a warm shower! We rested for the rest of that day and built up our stamina for our next days adventure. The village - Muang Nuoa- had hardly a tourist and felt extremely remote. It had a spectacular view of a river and a laid back atmosphere unlike any in Vietnam. We slept that night ready to take a boat ride the next day and see what else Laos had to offer...

Posted by achamy 22:41 Archived in Vietnam Tagged roads crossing vietnam laos to fu border transit phu muddy dien bien

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