Postcards from Abroad

Whether your dream is to stay in a colonial-era bungalow in the middle of a tea plantation, an Indian princely palace, or to cruise in luxury the Irrawaddy to Mandalay, we never tire of searching for your next great travel destination. This is the place to share with us your most recent adventures.

Shy Sa Pa is revealed by James and Cate Fraser

James and Cate at Sa Pa 2Well, after 3 days of cold weather, torrential rain and heavy cloud we got rewarded for our patience; today we actually saw the town and the sun. It was quite a treat to see the lake properly for the first time, gain our bearings and to go by cable car part of the way up to Fansipan, Vietnam's tallest peak ( 3,143 metres) .




The cable car station was smart and vast surrounded by well manicured gardens. Gleaming Internal staircases, quiet escalators, a giant restaurant and shop added to the scene of grandeur. Amazing really, just seemed so out of context compared with the rather disorganised, higgledy-piggledy Sa Pa.

Raining in Sa Pa

Sa Pa


It was very windy as we swayed up the mountain, a little hair raising at times, however the views of the valley below were spectacular. Fragmented sun and cloud dominated, near the top just cloud.
We ended our journey by cable car and then embarked into the unknown as it was wet, cold, extremely windy and cloudy. Our climb to the top was uneventful if not a little moist. By the time we got to the top we felt blown and buffeted; we were just about visible in the mist, looking very wet and bedraggled but it was fun to join the chattering and excited groups at the top. Much flag waving and commotion even though one could not see a thing. On the return journey we shared a pod with a Vietnamese family from Ho Chi Minh. Their five year old son Alex befriended us, practised his English which was most impressive and sang for us. Another unforgettable experience.

James and Cate at Sa Pa

Sa Pa is an interesting place; originally a French hill station founded in 1922. It is perched on a steep slope, surrounded by mountains with a plunging valley below filled with beautiful carved rice terraces, we think sadly spoilt by too many building works. If it is not small or giant hotels being built, pavements are partially dug up for drainage and steel reinforcing rods lie scattered about. Everywhere one can hear the deafening noise of machinery, hammering builders, tilers and electricians. However the town has a certain charm created by the colourful hill tribe traders who are relentless and persistent if you show an interest. A clear 'no thank you' does the trick and they soon move on to pester those who show a glimmer of interest.

Sa Pa hilltribes

Our visit to Bac Ha market also in torrential rain will be unforgettable. Watching the various livestock being sold is not for the faint hearted. Bulky Buffaloes, screaming pigs, distressed puppies, geese, chickens and ducks all caged, tethered or bagged created a cacophony of sounds. The tamer side of the market consisting of hand made goods and vegetables was quieter, colourful and less stressful.

Sa Pa Bac Ha market

Headed back to Hanoi last night on a sleeper train having had a brief visit to the Chinese border.
The border crossing was very busy. Lots of Chinese goods being transported into Vietnam on specially adapted bicycles, all piled high!

Sa Pa 2

Vietnam is varied, alluring, intriguing and surprising. The people are delightful and helpful, parts are somewhat, some might say very, tourist trodden but the food is delicious. The only vexing part was the weather in the north which proved to be erratic. Sadly our travels are temporarily over but we have another part of the world to look forward to in the future.

A postcard from Vietnam by Paul Booty
Hallowed Halong and Tam Coc by James and Cate Fras...