Sunshine in Sapa

Sapa, May13th 2010

After a whole night's journey on SP3 train from Hanoi to Lao Cai with confusion, I arrived safe and sound at Lao Cai Railway Station. It was drizzling but quite hard. My plan that day was actually to take a 1 day biking tour. But that journey on the train and my disappointment towards my had-trusted travel agent in Hanoi already made me down. It's good that at that time I hadn't discovered whether SP3 was really better than SP1 as he had told me and thus changed my order without confirming me. Otherwise, I would have felt cheated from my first day in Sapa.

The drops of water from the sky that morning was just like salt water poured into the sea. That's an expression in Indonesian when you want to describe something meaningless. I wasn't really thinking of the tour anymore. Hurt. That was what I felt. I'm not the kind of person who can just let go when I've been so trusting someone (I even promoted his travel agency to others) but then found out that I had trusted something that wasn't true. His motto is "Quality is the best advertisement." How about trust? Honesty? Is that part of quality??

Did he expect me not to come back again to Vietnam and thus won't never find out the truth of what he had said? Hah... I was so tired, both physical and emotional.

I opened my umbrella and walked alongside the train merely following the current. At the exit gate I saw a young man holding a cardboard with my name on it. Every time I travel like this, I always thank my parents for giving me such an uncommon name that I can be one hundred percent sure that the name written there is really meant for me and not another person with the same name.

The young guy shook my hand. "My name is Hiep," he said.

Mr. Hiep led me to the car. The car wasn't crowded. Mr. Hiep sat next to me and there was a couple sitting in front of me. Mr. Hiep asked me some questions and so did the couple who seemed to be Vietnamese. They asked me when did I arrive in Vietnam and how long I would be in Vietnam.

When they heard that I had just arrived the day before and would be leaving for Kuala Lumpur the next 2 days, they clearly regretted and said it was too short. I told them that that was my third time visiting Vietnam and I had already bought my flight ticket for the fourth trip in the following September. They said nothing after that.

Mr. Hiep tried to start conversations with me. I understand he was trying to be kind and I appreciate that. But, I was too tired and fell asleep. As I was sitting by the window, I felt my head bumping on the glass, but it was as if I had no energy to move my hand from the glass. I couldn't open my eyes until I felt the car stopped.

We were already in front of Sapa Pathfinder Travel's office in Sapa. It was still raining. I did not care. I don't need sunshine, I thought. The next thing I wanted was to take a shower. Mr. Hiep ushered me inside the office, asked me to sit down, and poured tea for me in a little cup.

"The rain will stop within two hours," said Mr. Hung, the travel agent who had been communicating with me by email.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yes," he answered with a big smile.

I had booked Fansipan View Hotel which turned out to belong to Sapa Pathfinder Travel also. Before I came, Mr. Hung wrote that after I arrive in Sapa, I could take a shower, have breakfast, and then go on the biking tour. So I wondered where the hotel was.

"Are we waiting for a car to take me to the hotel?" I asked.

"No, we don't need a car. The hotel is very near. Just have some tea first," said Mr. Hiep.

"But I want to take a shower." To that, Mr. Hiep stood up at once, took my travel bag, and walked out of the office.

Only several meters from Sapa Pathfinder Travel's office, there was a lane with steps going up. As it was still raining, I took care not to slip for I had my precious camera on my bag. I don't need sunshine, but I do need to be careful.

I asked Mr. Hiep whether it would be okay if I cancel the biking tour and just join the trekking tour the next day. He answered that it was fine since there won't be any point either biking under the rain.

Ms. Thuyen greeted me at the front desk, required for my passport, carried my bag, and ushered me upstairs. The moment she opened the door to my room, a huge relief entered me. What a nice room for 15 USD! She told me that I was lucky because I already could check in. Yes, I understand that. It was still like 7 o'clock at that time.

Inside the room, the more I cared less about biking. I planned to take a shower and then land myself on the huge soft bed with the view of Fansipan Mountain through the huge windows in front of me. Oh, I always adore rooms with broad windows. So peaceful. After taking a nap, I thought, I'd just take a walk around the town which looked so lovely.

I took my toiletries out my bag, cleaned my face, and got ready for a warm shower. It was a big bathroom. I love big bathrooms, too.

I felt like I had just woken up from a nightmare.

I wore on my "too-big-black- T-shirt" from National Geographic and my black short pants. That's my regular costume for sleeping whenever I travel. It's not that I hate National Geographic, but it's just because the T-shirt is too big for me that it looks more like a baby doll on me.

Suddenly I heard a knock on the door. It was Mr. Hiep. "The sun is shining! Let's go biking!"

I turned my head to the window and... oh! Sunshine has come! I had been so busy thinking of the other "S", sleep, that despite the broad windows I didn't realize how the weather had totally changed.

I took off my National Geographic and changed into a new T-shirt and shorts. Downstairs Ms. Thuyen eagerly ushered me to a small restaurant next door. It was a nice dining room with the morning sun shining in.

I was offered 4 choices of menu. I choose French bread and omelet and coffee.

"Do you want your coffee with milk?" asked the smiling waiter.

"Yes, with milk, please."

"Do you want condense milk or fresh milk?

"Fresh milk, please."

"Do you want your coffee with sugar or no sugar?"

"No sugar, please."

I was still sleepy and not 100% freshen up yet, but the sunshine outside was so warm and made a golden sparkle on the butter oil used to fry the omelet. This sunshine, would never betray my trust.

Nightmare is over.

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