We started our drive out to the edge of town at about 11am from the hotel in the morning after grabbing a quick shower, to freshen up from the riding the all nighter train. Thankfully it was a private tour and we had the luxury of planning it out to suit our schedule. Our tour guide and driver chatted excitedly about what we would be encountering on our 4 hour trek through the hills of Sapa and gave us a brief description about the different tribes and villagers that would see along the way throughout the entire afternoon. When our car dropped us off at the start of the trek, 2 villagers were already waiting there trying to sell us their handicraft. As politely as we declined to buy anything, they insisted to join us on our hike till the end. Our guide told us they usually are quite persistent in trying to make a sale for their wares at an extremely hiked priced, so it was up to us if we wanted to buy them or not.
After about an hour or so into the hike, I decided to launch my drone up to get a view of the surroundings. Oh my goodness, I was not only blown away by the amazing footage that my drone was streaming to my phone, but after a few minutes, a handful of children started running up the hill to get a glimpse of the buzzing sound that my Mavic Pro was making, which made me even more nervous.
The guide told us that the rice fields have just been harvested a week or two ago, that’s why the luscious green fields were a golden hue now. It felt so strange to be able to fly my drone with such freedom here, with no obstacles in the way. Glad the winds weren’t crazy strong as well, so it was a breeze getting all the shots and videos that I wanted.
Right after packing up Wanda (the Mavic Pro) we continued on with our journey after bidding the children farewell. Time seems to pass by somewhat slowly as we trudged through the hills taking in the glorious views of nature, and how the villagers managed to carve the hillside to cultivate rice fields. It seems pretty amazing that almost all it was done by hand.
2 hours into the trek, and the 2 lady villagers that we met at the beginning of the trail were still walking beside us, they even provided some commentary and tried to teach us how to speak their dialect. I admire their will to make a sale, the trail had been about 4km up hill and downhill, and they stuck with us throughout. The trek through the rice fields wasn’t as strenuous as I had predicted, but then again it was the ‘easy’ route that we had taken, mostly I was just glad we didn’t have to trudge through mud.
One tip, before going into a snapping frenzy with your camera trying to capture the lives of the locals, beware that they might demand some money from you as a tip for taking their photographs, or either coerce you into buying their souvenirs. Strangely that didn’t happen when I was flying the drone, they eagerly posed for the photos and all they asked in return was to see the shots that I took of them. Meanwhile, if you aim a regular camera at them, before u know it they’ll be shouting or either sternly voicing their demand for a few dollars. One lady demanded a cool 10 US dollars if we were to take her picture, wasn’t so sure if she was drunk on rice wine, or if she was joking, but we steered clear of her way. So always ask before taking pictures of the locals.
Right after reaching the restaurant for a late lunch break, which was 7km into the hike, my mom felt a little bad for the 2 villagers who walked with us for close to 4 hours, and decided to just buy a few things from them. During the sale, I asked one of the lady from the red Dzao tribe why did she shave her eyebrows off completely. She said, “oh, when Dzao women get married, we must shave it off so people know” Ahhhh… Interesting, yes she spoke english fluently, and said she also spoke Spanish, French, German, and Mandarin.
After getting a couple of souvenirs from our 2 tribe escorts we were off to lunch! A good break at the top of a wooden house with a view to match as we gobbled down simple dishes prepared by the locals. Bring on the rice and meat please, we’re famished!
After our meal ended, we took a slow walk back to the bottom of the hill and found our driver waiting for us, ready to bring us back to the hotel to freshen up and take a long nap till dinner time. It was such an exhausting day, counting in the fact that we had interrupted sleep on the Chapa Express arriving into Sapa before jumping right into the half day trek. Day 1 was over, and it gave us such dramatic insider tips about the lifestyle of this huge valley and its villagers. Day 2 was expected to be a little more tough, as we go deeper into the hills.
Below is a 2 minute clip I managed to shoot with my drone during the 2 day trek, enjoy!