Conversation Starter

One of the aspects that make a trip memorable is the people you meet and the conversation you have with them. I’m not that outgoing and it’s beyond my comfort zone to start up conversations with random strangers I meet during a trip. However, usually when I did have a conversation with someone, often times that turned into an interesting discussion especially when the other person was as interested in a particular topic or shared something in common with me. Sometimes what it takes is a conversation starter and the courage to approach others. Then those who were strangers before can become your friends, even for just a short period of time.

During our time staying in Sapa, Vietnam, we stayed at a hotel that had many foreign guests. In most cases each group of guests went on their own, and didn’t really mingle with others. But after staying for a couple of days, there were some that we came across in many different places at the hotel or somewhere else in Sapa.

When we were done with our trek to Cat Cat village, we decided to spend the remaining three hours we had available before the journey back to Hanoi at the Sapa Rooms Hotel restaurant. We had not had lunch, and it’s a cozy place to hang out (plus we already checked out from our room and our luggages were at the hotel’s front desk). Since it was late afternoon, most of other guests were already left of were out and about. For some time, Kristi and I had the whole lounge/restaurant area for ourselves. It was nice to stretch our legs after walking on the trek for the last few hours. We ordered some appetizers and drinks from the restaurant — only in less than two days we became quite a fan of their mixed fruit juice creations that we looked forward to try out different kinds while we were still there.

Not long after, a couple came to sit at the table next to ours. They looked familiar — we saw them for the first time the previous day when we were driving back to Sapa Rooms from the Hmong Mountain Retreat after finishing our trek. This couple stayed at the Hmong Mountain Retreat the night before, so they shared the same minivan ride with us back to Sapa. We also saw them in the morning when we came down to check out from our room. It looked like they were in similar situation like ours — on their last day in Sapa and having to spend the day in town before heading back to Hanoi at night.

As we were enjoying our appetizers, I took out my camera to review the photos I took in the morning during our trek. The gentleman sitting at the next table saw that, and made a quick comment: ‘That’s a nice lens you have there. I’m a Canon shooter too.’ (referring to the 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens I had on my Canon DSLR — a workhorse lens that is very recognizeable among the Canon DSLR users given its distinguishing red ring). I said thanks to the compliment, and before long we started talking about our photography gears that we brought for the trip. Then I learned that he and his wife (their names were Andrew and Cathy) were from Sydney, Australia, and they’re doing a tour of Northern Vietnam for a couple of weeks. They had been staying at Sapa Rooms for a couple of nights, though for one of the nights they decided to try out the new secluded property that Sapa Rooms proprietor just opened up in nearby village called Hmong Mountain Retreat. Overall they seemed to enjoy their stay like we did. They had done several treks during the three days they were in Sapa, so they shared a little bit about their experience which was slightly different but largely had similar highlights as ours. They also had May as their tour guide for one of the treks, and they liked her as well.

We ended up spending the next couple hours together at the restaurant chatting and enjoying our food, and afterwards we ended up going together on the same minivan ride to head to Lao Cai for the journey back to Hanoi on train.

Here is Cathy and Andrew at the Sapa Rooms restaurant area. You can see the nice ambience of the restaurant seating area that was very cozy to stay, and having friendly people to talk to and share experience with made it even better. I’m glad Andrew started the conversation, because otherwise we would’ve been sitting in that big room on our own and treat each other as complete strangers and wouldn’t have the enjoyable conversation to share the experience.

Cathy and Andrew

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