Today we woke up at 7am and had no plans for the day until we realised that there is a tour to Bac Ha markets, which only occurs every Sunday. A quick word with the hotel and a sudden decision to leave with the group, we were quickly on our way.
It was a long way to Bac Ha. We hadn’t even left Sapa when Mr 4 decided he needed to go to the toilet. Lucky for us the bus stopped to pick up a group from another hotel so that was easy – phew!
Unfortunately our luck didn’t last too long as down the windy road towards Lao Cai, Mr 3 decides that he too needs to go to the toilet. I hold off from saying anything to anyone as I realise there is absolutely no where to stop. He insists he needs to go, so after about 20 minutes of telling him to wait, I ask the tour guide when the next stop will be as we need a toilet stop. Without expecting to stop for another 10 minutes at least, the tour guide says something in Vietnamese to the driver and the driver brings the mini bus to a sudden halt, parks the bus in the middle of the windy road. Cars are beeping, trucks are honking. He looks at me and pointing to the side of the road says in his broken English – “ok, go!” I wasn’t expecting this, and I am now feeling embarrassed. I grab Mr 3 and we squat on the side of the road having to take everything off, in case he dirties his pants. I didn’t take any paper, but thankfully some kind person gives me some paper.
I feel somewhat pressured and hope to God he does his deed, as we made the entire group stop. I can feel all eyes on us. Poor Mr 3 must have felt the same pressure that I felt, because unfortunately he was unable to “perform” no matter how long we squat there waiting. I gave up. We had already wasted enough time so we hopped back on the bus and thankfully both boys fell asleep for most of the journey.
We arrived at Bac Ha and spent 2 hours checking out the markets. Unfortunately it wasn’t clear whether the tour guide would take us to a place to have lunch, so we ended up just buying some bread and vietnamese donuts to keep us going.
We left Bac Ha towards a little village and were invited into their houses. Jason tried a spirit from fermented corn they were making. The boys loved seeing the pigs and piglets, chickens, chicks, roosters, buffalos, ducks, dogs and some local kids playing in the mud. They wished they were there digging and playing in mud!
The journey from Bac Ha to Lao Cai (half way) was long and painful. The boys became extremely silly and had obviously had enough sitting on the bus – and who can blame them!
Some tips when travelling with kids:
1. Always ALWAYS carry an empty water bottle with you! (Not sure this applies for girls though, but it’s perfect for little boys!).
Having an empty bottle with us has saved us from making multiple toilet stops many times! Unfortunately on this occasion we were not prepared for number two and leaving the hotel in a rush didn’t help the situation. Allowing time for breakfast and the ritual morning toilet break before leaving the hotel will save you from headaches during your day tour.
2. Always carry toilet paper or wipes as most public toilets don’t have toilet paper.
3. Carry hand sanitizer as not all toilets have soap.
4. Have some simple games up your sleeve as back up such as:
* “eye spy”
* “finding things is…” and then choose a colour that they need to find of that colour or any other thing you can think of etc…
* on this ocassion we couldn’t use the phone/tablet to watch any shows as last time when travelling down this road they got sick with all the windy roads, otherwise having a few cartoons or games on your phone also helps.
* counting games
* drawing/stickers/ making paper aeroplanes- again, this works in most travel circumstances but it was not possible on this journey as it would have made them sick.
I tried ALL of them, but even then it was a nightmare! Just some days they will be good and other days they will show you how much they’ve had enough!
Our experience with having dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant for tourists in Sapa central has taught us that usually servings are less. Our bowl of steamed rice was ridiculously small and the hot plates were over priced. We think we may stick to the restaurants that locals eat at – surely you can’t go wrong there!