If you are ever trying to get around Vietnam, TAKE THE TRAIN. It was glorious- no sandwiching between people, no techno, no weird smells. It left on time and arrived into Sapa on time as well. Imagine that.
Sapa is incredibly charming. It is a mountain town near the Chinese border. The clouds are always on the mountains. I spent today and yesterday trekking around the mountains with a guide who claimed to be 18 but looked about 12. She spent most of the time trying to convice me I should marry her brother. She introduced me to her sister and her sister's little baby. So cute! I wanted to pull an Angelina and take him home with me.
I was completely impressed by their ability to just trot down these slippery mountain road even carrying the baby! Meanwhile, I was trying to remember anything I'd ever heard about surviving a mud slide/ flashflood. Nothing came to mind, so it is a good thing the mountains stayed intact. The rain never stopped! I bought a cross body bag from the sister which will probably end up in the "seemed like a good idea at the time" drawer at home alongside with my llama legwarmers from Peru.
The people up here are so short! I must have been about a foot taller than my guide. It's pretty fun to feel tall for a few days (even if I realize in the back of my head that malnutrition is probably to blame). The food was fantastic. As a rooster had the nerve to wake me up at 5am, I'm eating as much chicken as possible.
I'm taking a night train back to Hanoi tonight and will then have from 5am (ouch) until late afternoon to explore Hanoi and visit pickled Ho Chi Minh. Then off to Laos! Perhaps I will even be able to figure out if the "s" in Laos is silent or not because I keep hearing it different ways. My favorite explanation so far is that it is pronounced when you're talking about the country but silent when you mean the people who live there.
I have super slow internet here but I managed to upload a few pictures from Hoi An: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.875442573925.2351800.2407552&l=d1bb932c67