Day 2 & 3 – Part 1 Sapa market

 Sapa is higher up in the mountains and hence is cooler with the weather more unpredictable. It may be cold and misty one minute and hot and sunny the very next. Our guide warned us that we may experience the 4 seasons in one day. How true.

We left Bac Ha after lunch. Bac Ha is to the west of Lao Cai while Sapa is to the east. Hence we had to go downhill to Lao Cai then uphill to Sapa from there. The drive took us 3+ hours. I have mentioned the traffic flow in Hanoi. It was much of the same thing in this part of Vietnam though not as busy - the drivers or motorcyclists somehow would avoid each other. If you wanted to overtake just sound the horn to show your intention and the driver in front will oblige. This was actually quite encouraging for us as the road uphill was quite winding and fairly narrow. Add the scenario of animals and kids roaming by the roadside and you have a formula for accidents in any so-called more civilized country.

Terraced rice farming is a major form of agriculture practiced here. These terraces really form a great opportunity for photography. Unfortunately (for me) this is a family holiday and not a photo-safari. I watched hopelessly, almost painfully, some great sights passing us by that I would have stopped and shoot on any other day. Moreover these opportunities did not come too often during this trip as the lighting was really fleeting given the weather conditions during the few days we were there.

It was drizzling and very misty when we arrived. We checked into our hotel which is situated right next to the market. This is ideal for us - the girls can do their shopping while I can again do some photography. We unpacked and rested a while. It was then that I grabbed this candid of my wife sitting by the window. Notice the mist outside.

By the window 

I looked out from the same window and could hardly see the buildings behind because of the mist. Then the mist opened up for a few minutes in time to let the sunlight through for me to grab this shot of Sapa town behind our room. Wonderfull light on the building. And the sky was so blue!

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Now watch the mist coming in from the right. The whole scene was soon covered with mist.

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We later walked to the market where the girls bought some souvenirs and had a taste of the life in Sapa.

Hill tribes were everywhere.

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Walking towards the market (shown in background)

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The tribes could be quite persistent to sell you their goods.

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For the more adventurous there are motorbikes for rent. I would have tried if I was on my own.

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More of the nearby market.

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It was soon time for dinner. We had dinner at a local restaurant serving Vietnamese-style European fare where a steak was just a piece of beef - no option for sirloin, tenderloin or what you fancy. Not bad on the whole.

The street where the restaurant was situated.

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A couple of high ISO shots after dinner.

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That was for that day.


The plan for the next day was to take the sunrise at the terraced rice fields.  Unfortunately it rained the whole morning and barely stopped just about the time the market started to spring to life. The family was still sleeping. I took the opportunity to wander out on my own hoping to capture the goings-on at the market before we met up at a stipulated breakfast time to prepare to visit some of the nearby tribal villages. That gave me an hour of photography freedom.

At the market the locals were preparing their stalls (selling fruits, souvenirs, local food, vegetables, meat etc) for the day. I noticed there were many Black Hmongs everywhere carrying on their backs a basket of their own vegetables to be sold to the locals and vegetable stall owners. I witnessed how a stall owner negotiated with a young Black Hmong girl and finally bought all her vegetables. Something told me that the stall owner depressed the girl's prices...

Here is a shot showing the parting of cash between buyer and buyee.

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After selling their vegetables the Hmongs will then use the money to buy their respective provisions. Notice it was still drizzling. I have good faith on the weather-sealing of the D3 and 17-35 hence that didn't bother me one bit.

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To the right of these fruit stalls was the section for food stalls and further right was the meat section as shown below. Notice most of the butchers were females - the males had to tend their farms.

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I then walked back to the fruit stalls where I met this boy. He was having his bottle of milk in this scene showing the grandma feeding him.

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I waited for him to finish his meal after which I took a few shots of him, then showed the images to the grandma and boy. That broke the ice even though I could not communicate with them otherwise.

Happy boy in his morning environment.

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The very curious boy wanting to see his own image in my LCD.

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With his father and grandma in the background.

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 After finishing this series I gave him a balloon, thanked his family for the opportunity and walked back to the hotel satisfied for the short morning's attempt at documenting the morning market activities in Sapa.

To be continued with Part 2. 


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