We started our exploration of Sapa by hitting the market. I love markets, and this one is a really lovely one. I loved seeing all of the chicken arranged with their legs sticking up, and butchers carving meat so fresh that it was fuming into the cold. As before, dog meat was also shamelessly sold at the market – it’s a common sight in Vietnam, and regardless of how we may feel about it, food is food. From a country that has struggled so much, it makes so much sense to keep s many food options on the list as possible.
I decided to make it tradition to buy a copper bracelet in Sapa, so I purchased one from a Red Dao lady who had befriended us. There are so many ethnic ladies around the town, trying to get you to buy from them. While that hasn’t changed in the last 5 years, what has changed is their tactics. While before it was all very aggressive (think being encircled by a group of them, with high-pitch “You buy? You buy from me? You buy one you buy two?”), now it seems that they have taken the friendship approach. They ask where you are from, your name, your age, how old you are, if you have relatives, children, etc – all questions you feel bad dismissing. In the end you learn a little bit about them, and then feel bad saying no at purchasing something from a “friend”… It’s quite a good sales tactic to have taken up.
After breakfast and a stunt back into the room for warmth, we were back to the market for lunch. Tasty, hot pho for me, and stir-fried beef with mushrooms and mustard greens for Travis. I had to give the Vietnamese credit when Travis ordered a hot café sua (coffee with milk) and it arrived in a bain Marie to keep it warm. Such ingenuity!
The rain had cleared by then and the weather was a bit better, so we decided to hike to the Cat Cat village. It was a lovely hike, shrouded in thick clouds that prevented us from seeing the majestic mountains or the rice terraces. From time to time we could catch glimpses of the landscape, and it was unbelievably beautiful.
We spent the evening warming up by the fireplace, listening to last year’s Christmas play list from The Flashdance on my ipod via speakers. We finally got “warm” and cozy! It was a really lovely way to get into the spirit of the holidays.