Although my trip through Vietnam wasn't blowing my socks off I had hopes for my last stop, the only iconic thing that I was looking forward to, a trek through the rice terraces of Sapa. I skipped a visit to Halong Bay to give myself enough time, money and energy to devote to Sapa, the rice terraces, and minority villages. Instead of joining a pre arranged trip from Hanoi I decided to do the visit on my own, I booked my overnight sleeper train after only one full day in Hanoi and was soon on my way. Everything about the train ride was straightforward and easy, as far as night travel goes, but the second we arrived the negotiations started. I heard from multiple sources, including fellow travelers that the minibus from Lao Cai to Sapa should be a flat 50,000 dong, no problem. Not sure where these people got off the train but the guys were starting with offers of 100,000, had one down to 80k when I ran into a group of 3 other women negotiating with a group of drivers. They were adamant not to go above 60k, so I decided to join ranks. Eventually, we settled on a fair, but not really, 70,000 dong so we packed in for the 45-minute ride through the winding hills up to Sapa.
I was warned that I'd either love it or hate it. For some Vietnam is a food and adventure paradise while others just can't seem to find their grove. With a turbulent history and remains of division between north and south, it's an interesting place to say the least.