We were originally going to stay 2 nights in Sapa and spend a day hiking. When we got up the weather looked as if it was going to be miserable so we decided to leave earlier.
We booked tickets on the sleeper train to Hanoi that left from Lao Cai, a nice 35km ride down the mountain. This gave us enough time to walk a little around town and into the countryside nearby. The town itself, while in a beautiful spot suffered from cancerous over development of hotels. It was a serious resort town and a messy one too. The place was filled with wome dressed in traditional tribal clothing from the surrounding villages hawking handicrafts. Being low seaon and not the weekend this and the ratio of tourists to hawkers was not favourable to the former who wished to take a quite walk around. The hawkers would stake out hotels, gathering on mass at the entrances like paperazzi. They would hunt in packs down the main street, quickly surrounding anyone so unwise as to talk to them. We heard a story from a couple that they had been followed for an hour while taking a walk outside town for more than an hour after having being told several times that they had no interest in buying anything.
The ride down the mountain to Lao Cai was great. We dropped from a temperate climatic zone back into tropical forest. The rice terraces were a wonder to behold and almost no pedalling involved.
There was nothing much to Lao Cai other that it was quite a large place and was the end of the train line. We arrived quite early and had quite a lot of time to kill before we got onto the train.The train ticket was quite inexpensive at 24 USD per person in a 4 bed cabin. We shared with a young Dutch couple and managed to get quite a good night's sleep. The only downside was that there was no baggage compartment which mean that the Tandem would travel on a train that left slightly later than ours, though arriving the same morning.
40km - 2 hrs 17 mins - 17.3 km/hr