Home > Travel > Sapa, Visiting tribes – Day 6

Sapa, Visiting tribes – Day 6

I start where I left of. We have been transferred to Hanoi railway station. It remained me very much of my own country about 20 years ago. Guide made sure we jumped on right train. There was whole bunch of people who booked trip through Handspan. As I learned we all stayed in different carriages.  I stayed in cabin with mid age Vietnamese couple and older Vietnamese “aunty”. They didn’t speak any English. The whole conversation was limited to hello.They were nice though, I have been offered peanuts and some crackers . I quickly jumped on my bed and tried to get some sleep. I slept about 3-4 hours which is good considering I have trouble to fall asleep in any kind of vehicle. Vietnamese couple were chatting till about 1am but they were also very considerate and quiet. I woke up about 4am, one hour before we supposed to reach Lao Cai. I went out of cabin to stretch my legs. Cabin bed wasn’t designed for people of my size, that’s for sure. I was hoping the train driver is not sleeping, because if he overshoots the station, we end up in China, which is only 2km from Lao Cai.
Just before 5am the lady in charge of the carriage started to wake up passengers. She went from door to door and then did one more round. Third time she did it offering coffee and tea. I thought it was a nice touch to have coffee included in the price of the ticket. So I took two but I learned my mistake after I had to pay for it. Oh well. Ask first….lesson of the day.
Soon we reached Lao Cai. After disembarking from train we were picked up by a guy who drove us to Sapa. It was about 40 min drive on winding road. I didn’t see anything from supposedly nice scenery becaus everything was still pitch black. As we came closer to Sapa we saw first light. I was already able to see that its pretty foggy. I really hope I get at least one sunny day so I can actually take some photos. After dropping of in front of Handspan office I had to pull out my jacket. Sapa is in high altitude and it’s pretty cold there. I meet out guide for the day. His name is Duong but I call him Elvis because his resemblence with king of rock and roll is amazing.  His English is ok. Tour I bookes seems to bee good just because there is only two of us and guide. Elvis talks us through the tour, what we visit, where we sleep etc. We were instructed to leave big bags in Handspan office and take only necessary things with us for one dasy and night. Since my smaller bag is full of camera gear I took only towel, toothbrush and spare socks. I am probably going to stink like pig but I don’t care. I finished packing and of we go to the hills to meet the tribes.
Elvis warned us that there will be local ladies who will follow us trying to sell us some handicrafts. In the moment I left the Handspan office there was whole bunch of them arround me. I don’t know how it works but after about 100m some of them stopped folloving us and only 2 remained. They were from Black Hmong tribe famous for their dark “indigo” blue clothing. First they were just folloowing us like nothing happened. They were carrying baskets with handicrafts on their backs. After a while they started they approach. “You come from?” “Slovakia” and she goes “Solamia?”, “no S l o v a k i a”. Ok “My name Jay, you?”, “I am Richard”, “ooo nice name, nice to meet you, you buy from me ok?” and she puts some handicraft under my nose. I tried to loose her like I cannot buy today or I buy later but she kept following me. Even when we stopped for a lunch, she sat down in front of hut and waited till we finished. Well that time I realised that if I don’t buy she will walk with us all 17 km trek and sell nothing. So I bought small bag from her for 60.000 dong which I bargained down from 100.000 dong. She seemed to be happy and left us. My countepart on the trek didnt buy anything yet and she was followed by the other Hmong woman till she gave in and bought something.
We stopped at small stahl with various goods and bought some apples for family we were about to visit. I also bought som candies for Hmong kids which surrounded us. They seemed to be very happy. We moved on to the Hmong house. Elvis went in first to organise the visit and then we entered the genuine Hmong house. As Elvis said this is something special because this wasn’t in itinerrary. There were few people in the house. An old lady about 90 years of age, young mom with bunch of kids there. They were very curious from the start and were running arround us. Elvis explained us details about Hmong lifestyle ans showed us arroud. It was very basic wooden/bamboo house, exactly what you would expect from tribe living it’s life in traditional way. We tit down next to the small fireplace and old lady took over the business initiative. She showed us some nice pillow covers and bags with nice embroideries and made from indigo fabric which is typical from Black Hmong people. We started to bargain the price with the younger woman but she always had to ask the old one for permission to lower the price. That’s aparently the tradition that the oldest member of the family has the last say. I didn’t succeed to get the price down where I wanted but after a while I gave in. I agreed to the price under condition that I can take picture of old lady and so I did. We spent some time photographing and filming the kids. They seemed to be very happy and they laughed a lot whe they saw themselves on camera. After a while we said goodbye and kept moving to visit more tribes. There is several of them living in Sapa valley. Black and White Hmongs are the most common one, then there are Tay people and Red Dao people and some other smaller tribes. Eachof them with own dialect and distinct clothing. As we keep walking I admire the scenery. Weather is changing every 100 m. We had sunny, windy also rainy moments just in the 1 km of walk. Trek is not too hard but I am sweating.  And indigo bag released its color 😦 It needs to be wasked at least 3 times till it becomes more “stable”.
I canot stop admiring those rice teracces. It’s so beautiful even if it is not harvest time. That time they are even more beautiful since they re all green. And all these tribe people there create perfect scenery and very good subjects for photographs. Only trouble is with Red Dao tribe. They don’t like their picture to be takes becayse they believe the picture steals their soul. Even smoll kids cover their faces with hands or just say “No”.
At the end of the trek we were picked up by car which transferred us to another village of Tay people where we had our homestay. We entered a big wooden house, much bigget than the Hmong house we saw. We had dinner, quick shower (which was quite cold). As I learned, all together 4 generations lived in that house. The oldest of men was about 80 year old grandpa. He kept talking to me but I just smiled and say yes all the time since I had no clue what is he talking about. He seemed to be ok with that. After dinnew we joined the younger members of the family at fireplace. The brought”happy water” or rice wine in other words and we started to drink shots. It wasn’t very strong but we drank a lot  and tast wasnt something I was used to. The mood was great and we just kept drinking till we decided to go to bed which was about 10pm. I know it was still early but we were fairly tired after 17 km trek. Our sleeping place was a mattrace with some quilt. Exactly same as local had, no no special tourism treatment. Quilt was bit short for me so I had to culr up like a shrimp to fit under it. And I had to because it was bloody cold. Of course there was no heating nor fire  going on during the night and if you imagine house from wooden planks with no sealing combined with temperatures arround 5 degrees celsius during the night you get the idea. But surpisingly I slept very well. Maybe that’s why we were drinking rice wine :).

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