Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Raining in Sapa...

I was awakened this morning to incredible thunder and lightning. From my hotel window, I could see the fog and mists coursing into the valley between the peaks that surround Sapa. It was all very visually stunning and rather surreal. The rains were very intense at times and the lighting and thunder almost occurred simultaneously. I hadn't brought a rain jacket with me when I had came up from Hanoi and so I was totally unprepared for taking my scheduled six hour trek through the mountains today. Anyway, I decided to hang around this fascinating little town for the afternoon before taking the overnight train back to Hanoi later on this eveing. Since the elvation here at Sapa is about 5000 feet, this has been the first time that I've been outside AND cool at the same time in over a month. Very pleasant. Last night, on my way back to the hotel, I could even see my breath. Sapa is much quieter and decidedly less hectic and intense than is Hanoi. However, as it is down the hill, some of the motorbikes don't bother to put on their headlights at night so you still have to be careful. Some more impressions of this country: 1) As it is in both India and Cambodia, all of the westerners drink only bottled water (unless they're staying or eating at some high-end hotel.) 2) many of the middle-class houses in both Hanoi and in HCM City follow the same general design: they're simple cement rectangular structures (only 12 or 15 feet in width and up to maybe 40 feet in length). The family business is often on the first floor. However, these structures are, in a sense, "replicated" up to five stories high. Many of the floors have with ornate balconies with pillared railings and other decorations. Some of them are used as separate one-room apartments on each floor while others are used entirely by a multi-generational family. Most of the time, only the front of the house is painted while the flat and unadorned sides are kept the dull grey of cement. 3) In HCM City, many of the shops sell bottles of a powerful (I've heard) yellow-colored liquor. If you look closely at the bottle, however, you can see that they each contain a small snake (usually a cobra) that's coiled to strike. These small cobras (once very alive) are "arranged" so that they're biting a scorpion or an alligator that's dangling in their mouth. Very weird, and, presumably, very popular for the tourists to bring back home. More later when I get down off this mountin...

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