Sorry for the lack of recent progress with the blog. We go through periods, mostly when it’s my turn to write, when there’s just not enough time in the day and we’ve recently been travelling through amazing places with a great bunch of people but more of that to come. Our arrival into Sapa was amongst our most comfortable journeys yet, sleeping soundly in our cosy little cabin aboard the overnight express from hanoi. Compared to the days of travelling sleeper class on Indian trains it was a palace on wheels and it was only right that we gorged ourselves on baked goods along the way. Sapa certainly makes for a riot of colour as we were confronted by the Hmong tribes people adorned with their multicoloured fabrics reigning down smiles on us amongst the tiers of emerald green rice paddies below us, and the soaring summit of mount Fansipan and its neighbouring peaks high above. The Hmongs are some of the friendliest people we have encountered and while they do make for persistent traders their laughter is infectious and we were soon followed around town by a band of four or five of them chatting away while we searched for a guest house. We settled down in a backpacker hostel chain we had gone to in Hoi An for a car crash pub quiz, with huge shag piles in the common areas and travel lodge-esque rooms (which counts as the height of luxury for us.) One of the main draws for us was to climb mount Fansipan, the highest mountain in Indochina but after a few hours of research around town we were left disappointed as everyone we spoke to told us it was impossible for us to make the 1-2 day climb ourselves independent of a guide- despite having read numerous accounts to the contrary online. Undeterred, we rented a bike and set off to check out the starting point of the trek, weaving our way around another spectacular mountain pass before arriving at the checkpoint and deciding it would be easy enough for us to start the trail ourselves and readied ourselves for an early start the following morning. Just a quick note that it may sound foolish to attempt it against local advice but up until recently there were no restrictions on independent climbs, we had read up on personal accounts and we were told similar things in Nepal where we managed 7 days of trekking on our own in the Himalayas. In the end it all became irrelevant as after visiting the local market for some lunch our next stop was the hospital as Sarah’s ear pain had rapidly deteriorated and we learned that she had picked up an ear infection and was given antibiotics, sidelining our plan for Fansipan as it wouldn’t be clever to climb to high altitude with a throbbing ear infection. I decided it would be unwise to make the climb alone, and shelling out $100 for a one day tour was out of the question, maybe next time. In the end we stayed in the warm and curled up on the shag piles. The next day Sarah was struggling with the infection but the huge buffet breakfast helped and we set off for the local market to fill the remaining space in our bags full of the local Hmong people’s wares. You tend to see a lot of the same stuff when travelling especially in South East Asia but that was not the case in Sapa, embroidered tops, hangings, covers and just bits of loose patterns to be added into things later were all on the shopping list. Bartering and joking with the likes of MeMe, Dee, Moo, Mama Mi and the rest of the Hmongs made for a thoroughly enjoyable day and we left with (3) bags full of unique goodies, it’s here that packing light went firmly out the window (I’ve also been carrying around an unused hammock for the last two months!) That night we gorged on a street BBQ stall savouring our last few meals of Vietnamese food before we head to Laos. The next day Sarah spent all day in bed, thankfully she is now much improved. We both felt a little down that we weren’t making the climb but it was nice to relax all day downing hot chocolates and completely re-immersing myself in the imagination of George RR Martin. Next up we cross the border to Laos, which turned out to be one of the more interesting crossings. Tạm biệt!