An idyllic day trekking through the stunning rice terraces. No-one around except a few villagers going about their business and lively schoolchildren.
Another glorious day in the rice terraces, this time with a picnic lunch. All day we saw only the villagers and two other trekkers. It was hot and the going was steep in places but it was another great day in the mountains of Sapa.
At 9 a.m. we left with our guide and driver for Thanh Kim Valley.
We were dropped off near to a shelter where Red Dzao women were busy sewing.
The Dzao are one of the largest of the ethnic groups, originally coming from China. Like many of the hill tribe women, they wear beautiful traditional clothing, typically featuring intricate weaving, silver beads and coins.
Traditionally the women would shave the front of the head, the remaining length of hair being gathered and wound into a large turban on top of the head. They would also worship ancestor spirits and practice animal sacrifice.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky as we walked a little way along the road before dropping down onto a track. As soon as we dropped below the rim of the valley it began to get very hot. We had hats and sun cream and plenty of water so we took it at a steady pace. Immediately we were in amongst the most stunning scenery.
The sides of the valley sides are covered in rice terraces. Small homes with thatched roofs are clustered amongst the. A few grazing animals the only movement in the landscape until we came upon clouds of colourful butterflies feasting on the flowers.
The views were spectacular, even better than the trek we had done in the Muong Hoa Valley - tiers of rich green rice terraces in the valley we were traversing and ranks of mountains in the distance.
We were slowly working our way towards the mountains and down the valley side.
When we reached almost to the bottom of the valley we turned to follow a small river upstream, fording it rather wetly. But it was another hot and sunny day so we quickly dried off.
We continued up the other side of the valley in long zigzags, grateful for the shade of trees when we reached them.
We reached Thanh Kim village, a very small collection of homes perched on the valley side amongst shady trees above the rice terraces.
We came to even more spectacular terraces, like green corrugated paper.
A large pristine building, a modern school, was perched on the valley side. We were nearing our lunch stop and as we carried on down the track suddenly lessons seemed to finish and children poured out, some of the young boys flying past us down the hillside. We stopped a little further on in a shelter by a rushing river where the children were washing mats, with a good deal of splashing.
They were a lively accompaniment to our picnic which we were able to take in the shade of one of the shelters - fortunately there are quite a few of these dotted around.
After lunch we crossed the river and climbed out of the valley eventually reaching a road from where we walked back to our starting point.
The women were still there under their shelter - or perhaps they'd gone away and returned!
We walked through the grounds of an eco lodge to look down on the wide river valley in which our next destination lay - Ban Ho village.
We drove to Ban Ho village, which was just as well as we were quite tired after the trekking we'd done. The road down the valley side is steep and twisting - not for the faint-hearted.
The village itself is large - very much bigger than any we had seen on the trekking we'd been doing. It was not so interesting, having a distinctly urban feel.
We walked through the village and crossed the river on a rather rickety plank bridge. There was lots of construction work going on here - a dam is being built nearby and there were new buildings going up in the village. It doesn't feel like a village really, more like a small town visibly developing.
We didn't stay long and our driver took us back to the hotel with a couple of stops along the way for photographs in the late afternoon light.
The terraces in places seemed much more yellow than at Thanh Kim - possibly the crops were at a different state of development due to the slightly different climatic conditions in the two valleys. Or maybe it was just the different light.
That evening we walked down to the Hill Station restaurant and sat at a table by a window looking out over the town and valley. The excellent Ta Van Pork was a fine way to end the day.