The Road Back from the Mountains

Is that a book title or something? It sounds familiar. What is not as familiar is the landscape we traversed back from Sapa, where we tried cupping for the first time, met local friends who held our hands as we hiked inches in the mud, hiked down the terraces, with the water buffalo, and took a rope bridge to lunch.


Sapa remains one of the most hidden places we've traveled, a misted land of ancient traditions and welcoming souls.


As we drove further from the China border back into Vietnam (with the same coach, Topas Mountain Express, from our hotel that had driven us in style to Sapa), the mountains fell away, and the dark greens lightened to golds in the warmer valleys.


The rice was more developed as the temperatures inched up, on our way back to Hanoi. We were lucky to travel both ways with the most friendly group of Singaporean women, who held onto their armrests just like we did when we came near  cliff edges.


The 5-6 hour drive was incredibly beautiful every moment; I had expected moments of boredom on the drive, but the intense greens lit the journey from door to door, the rural life calm and at ease, it felt.


Eventually, the mountains tapered their sharp tops off and hills flowed gently over the rice fields. The terraces evened to a patchwork.


We stopped for one rest stop on the way, and it seemed like its only purpose was tourists, just not Western ones (as there was no toilet paper, the food looked to be about 20 years old, and the whole open-air convenience shop had nothing discernibly edible to me.


Although there is not much to tell of this drive, we spent about 10-12 total hours of the trip in the company of this scenery, and I wanted to share not as much for the stories, but so you could see the vastness of how stunning and calm the north of Vietnam feels, so very comfortable with its ways and simplicity.


Of course, as we arrived back in Hanoi, the clutter of cycles and mopeds and children and birds and incense and fish sauce hung in the air once again, and the most wonderfully welcoming hotel in the world opened its doors to us once again.