Dave & Shelly got it first. Bill & Pat hoped against hope that they wouldn't succumb, but we all caught whatever was going round. And it took us out at various levels for days. Our touring continued. Thank God for drivers, guides & pre-planned itineraries. None of us had the energy to really think about what we might do. Any way, jumping forward a week, Bill & I are in Borobudur (near Yojakarta in central Java) and are finally feeling much better.
Catching you up a bit, from Ninh Binh, we returned briefly to Hanoi to catch an overnight train to the North (near the Chinese border.) This is the area of the ethnic minorities. Many of them. 54 distinct ethnic groups are recognized by the Vietnamese Government. Among the ones we encountered (or may have encountered) were the Red & Black Hmong (the color refers to their clothes, not their skin), the Dzay, Red Dao, Tay, Thai, … We really lost track.
The train arrives in Lao Cai, the biggest town in the area and the location of the International Gate between China & Vietam. This is in fact quite a city and has little visible ethnic presence. Sapa is to the east and provides a nice center for shopping at the local daily market, snapping candid shots of the women in their traditional clothes, and for hiking through the villages. We stayed at the Victoria Hotel, pretty much regarded as the best option. Very comfortable and pleasant. We were sorry to have only one night here.
Saturday we drove to Can Cau (2+ hours to the west). This is a large but truly local market. Come here if you need a horse, cow, water buffalo, bird (song and or fighting variety). It was an interesting market but the heavy rain more than dampened the experience. Despite the later polish job, our shoes likely still have vestiges of that mud! We stayed overnight in BacHa to be there for the weekly Sunday market. This focuses more on clothes, handicrafts, food, etc.
We returned to Singapore on Monday. Our first initiative: catch up on laundry. Exciting! Actually it was pretty much all Bill & I could manage. As the week evolved, it seemed that our basic schedule here was to laze around each morning (lacking the energy to take full advantage of the varied options for explorations), and to explore in the afternoons, and then join Dave & Shelly for an evening of food & sights. We managed to take in the History Museum, Botanic Garden (including the exceptional Orchid Garden), the Jurong Bird Park, the Zoo and the Harbourfront (amazing architecture). Sunday Dave played tour guide taking us to Chinatown, Sentosa Island, on the Singapore flyer (like the London Eye, a huge ferris wheel with great views) and to Jumbo Seafood for dinner.