Sapa and Lao Chai - Vietnam 22 February - 1 March 2019

From Hanoi I took the overnight train to Sapa. The chill factor was quite a surprise as it is at an altitude of 1500M and the temperatures at night were just hitting double figures. When I arrived I took a taxi ride to see if a painting venue could be found. After half an hour painting the beautiful vista of mountains and rice paddy fields all was changed to clouds and mist. What to do? Wait and see if it clears. In the short term try painting from the iPhone image I had just taken - not an option but still tried it. I soon gathered a line of immaculately dressed primary school girls all in their Black Hmong clothing standing watching me. Later a couple of young boys arrived who seemed not to attend school and were up to no good in a vacant old building nearby. Much banging and hammering etc.

Black Hmong girls returning from school.

Black Hmong girls returning from school.

After a while I decided enough is enough and made my way back to Sapa. 

That evening i decided to take a prowl around Sapa - the only issue was there was little visibility! The area was well and truly in the clouds and so must have been my head. I got lost! Much walking up one way and then another ensued till I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. A taxi was the means to solve the problem!

The next day I visited Cat Cat village where I constantly heard ‘hello motorbike’ and some ‘shopping today’ - ladies trying to sell their hand made bags etc.  The young lads here seem to half heartedly ask tourists if they want a motorbike taxi ride and the rest of the time they just hang about. 

Rubbish - still more and more of it. Plastic bags on the side of the road. Bottles and all sorts strewn everywhere. The attitude to it is from cradle to the grave and no one seems to care. After painting i found myself picking up small amounts of my own tissue, banana skins and the like - what am I doing. But still I had to do it. 

My Homestay just about visible with a green roof.

My Homestay just about visible with a green roof.

After some days I headed the short distance to the village of Lao Chai to stay with a couple in a small hamlet. Here the menu was all to evident and walking around. There were pigs (seemed pregnant at the time), ducks, roosters, hens and small chicks everywhere. In Hoi an market I had watched chickens being plucked while other live chickens were in a cage just beside looking on. What did they make of it, I wonder. Perhaps they understand much more than we realise.  

My Homestay was in a small hamlet cheek by jowl with the local people. The owners were amazing and looked after me very well providing a good breakfast and dinner in the evening.

A short distance from my Homestay I painted this one of two Black Hmong girls returning home from school arm in arm. They are immaculately dressed with colourful wrappings around their legs.

Hamlet Lao Chai

Hamlet Lao Chai

The rice Paddy fields were lovely things to paint with the small amount of water at that time of the year reflecting the light.  

In this area they number of children was all too evident. People seemed to have around 6-7 children but now it is closer to 2 each couple. There are a number of primary schools and various kindergartens etc. Also a large secondary school positioned on a hill commanding a wonderful view of the valley. What a view.

The secondary school and paddy fields

The secondary school and paddy fields

The school children when (loosely) old enough go to school by motorbike. The lane alongside the school was jammed with parked bikes. On this lane just above the school I positioned myself and painted the scene. What a view from a school. While here a motorbike trailing  an 8 or so metre plank at a fast speed around the bends came along narrowly missing my easel. A tourist then came along and photographed me from a variety of angles - he asked first - such a luxury to be asked.

The weather when I was in Lao Chai wasn’t good - generally low cloud and it was a su Reprise after a couple of days I realised the mountains had tops. 

Sadly my time in Lao Chai and Sapa had to come to an end. I am now making my way to PhU Quoc an island in the very south of Vietman near the border with Camobia.