Sa Pa is a tiny little town in the Loa Cai disrtict of Northern Vietnam, 1600m above sea level...sitting below 'Nam's tallest mountain, Fan Si Pan...which is 3142m. Enough geography. It's a quiet little place, populated by the Hmong tribe in surrounding villages. They come into town to sell you anything from woven goods and bracelets, to opium and hash. Obviously, it was the woven shut and bracelets which caught my eye. One old lady took a shine to me, and followed me round town all day long, sniggering and going "Hash? Hash? Good hash, yes?" I was tempted to purchase from the toothless hag, but you hear horror stories about being turned in as soon as you've bought...so I'll save all that for Laos.
As it was, we spent a pleasant day treking through the hills on a tour. We'd gathered at a shop on the hill in...myself and The Jock, two Korean girls and an Italian lass. About ten minutes later, around another 20-odd people showed up. Including a Canadian (large yawn) who one shall herein refer to as Gobshite. He wouldn't shut up. You could hear him above everyone else. Yanks are mouthy fools. Canadians are mouthy fools, too. Boring ones. Our guide, Mimi, asked us if we wanted the harder route, or the easy road? I said "Which way is that fool going? We'll head the other way." She laughed. They took the easy road, which I was pleased about...and we set off over some ridges with some seriously big drops below...maybe 250m. "It is best to be careful" Mimi said. No shit. The Koreans fell over a few times on the slippery path, but we came though unscathed. And nobody died.
The villages were interesting, we walked through a couple. After lunch the people were clamouring to sell us their tat. One little girl, who I'd taken a pic of earlier up the hill, had said "You buy from me later?" I'd said "Maybe". They have long memories when it comes to squeezing cash out of you. I bought some friendship bands and a bag for my niece, and was just coughing up when I heard a wailing "You buy from her, you buy from meeeeee....you buy from her, you buy from meeeeee..." In fact, if you drop the spaces out of that sentence, it would sound about right. "Youbuyfromheryoubuyfrommeeeeeeeee...."
I turned around, expecting to see another cute kid. And jumped back, unintentionally, as Basil Fawlty did on encountering the black doctor in Fawlty Towers . This girl was about 12, and had the eyes of a dead fish, cloudy and grey. I got quite a fright, especially when I tried to move away and she followed me (can't be that blind, I thought?) down a track. I headed for The Jock.
"Get her away from me...she's doing my head in"
Poor girl. I can understand her predicament, but there's no need to go scaring the tourists into buying something. I can imagine her going home, and taking off the false eyes while saying "Tight bastards, didn't sell much today....these scary eyes are just a gimmick."