We set off from Mu Cang Chai early, grabbing a coffee for the road at the same place we drank beer with the locals. It was bang-on delicious. We stop at the mechanic for an hour while they fix up Kevin’s bike. He needs a new rim for his tire and new handlebars. He keeps dropping his bike whenever we park on the side of the highway.
A bucket of condensed milk with a coconut ladle
My luggage rack cracked, so the mechanic used a rubber strap and a piece of bamboo to reinforce it–crafty. They did a bad a job on Kevin’s handlebars, he drove down the road and they were shaking up and down like crazy! Finally they finish the job and we set off.
The ride up to Sa Pa is awesome. We’re all racing each other up the mountain–up,up, and around through the clouds. It’s corkscrews and twisties throughout. We stop at this scenic viewpoint to take some photos–we’re only 20km outside of Sapa now. Once we get our fill we try to leave, but Kevin’s bike won’t start. “I’ll bump it” says David, and he disappears down the hill to let gravity start it. You can see of a montage of this here.
Five minutes pass, so I go investigate and find him pulled to the side of the road. It won’t start–there’s no spark. I give him a tow up the mountain back to the viewpoint, where luckily the people living there also fix bikes. The mechanic is really funny and is running around pantomiming riding a motorcycle. We’re not sure if he’s coked out or just has spent way too much time on the side of this cliff. At any rate, he’s awesome.
Unfortunately for Kevin, his stator plate is fried–no sparks for him. The mechanic heads 30 minutes to Sa Pa and back to grab the parts while we drink a beer with the locals. David shows me his collection of sunset and sunrise pictures–he likes to catch both everyday. I ponder picking up this habit. As we wait, the clouds move in. Soon the visibility is gone and we’re shrouded in fog.
We’re hanging out by the entrance to the viewpoint, and a lone blonde girl emerges through the fog with her yellow and red Honda Win. We recognize her from Vietnam Backpackers Hostel, and David recognizes her motorcycle. We say hello to our German friend–trying to remember her name. You never forget a face, but names are another story. It turns out that she was riding the motorcycle David almost bought until a mechanic said it was fucked up. She’s had zero breakdowns.
The fog has rolled in
She’s just leaving Sa Pa and recommends we check out Bamboo Bar Homestay. A few minutes later a scooter rolls in–It’s our friend with the new stator plate. We wish safe travels to the German girl, and drink some tea while the new stator plate is installed. 15 minutes later and we’re off. We bomb through the fog for 20 minutes until we show up at Go Sapa Hostel. It’s low season, so we have no problem getting a dorm.
We grab some dinner down the street, and drink a few local beers. I share a beef hotpot with Andreas. We walk back up to the hostel and discover that there’s some wood and a fireplace here, so us Canadians build a fire. We’re joined by a lone Vietnamese traveler and two South Africans. David is drunk and attempts to split a log over his knee. It doesn’t go well, and he’s hobbling around the rest of the night. We all drink over a nice fire, sharing travel stories before retiring for the night.
Now it’s 10.30 and I’m having a coffee in the open-air cliff-side common area, taking in a spectacular view of the mountains. Kevin is on the balcony beneath us, and we can peer over and see him face-timing his mom. David and I start throwing balled up napkins at him from above. “Huh? Something fell on me.” he says the first time. He figured out it was us after we started throwing handfuls of sugar at him. “I’m going to come up there and throw you off this fucking balcony!” he yells up to us after the fifth load of sugar hits him.
We finally made it. We’re in Sa Pa.
No better place to drink your morning coffee