Our time in Sapa was clouded by heavy rains which gave us the opportunity to rest and slow down. It is 1600meters above sea level and the nearby highest peak in all of Vietnam, Mount Fansipan brings colder weather in the winter. The clouds rolled in and it was misty and at times socked in with fog. A great combination for trekking!
Our highlight of this experience was hiring a local Black H'Mong guide named Mya. She took us on a three hour trek thru two minority villages, one of which she grew up in. We walked down, down, down, past wet and misty rice terraces, which were already harvested in September. And past small wooden homes with chickens and ducks and pigs running freely. Water buffalo wandered aimlessly too, sometimes right in our path. Mya talked about her people's way and showed us how a family lives when we were invited into a home on the path. A grandmother sat on a tiny stool creating designs with beeswax on hand woven hemp with indigo stained hands. She would later dip her stunning creation into the barrel beside her which had turned a beautiful deep blue from the indigo leaves growing in their neighbourhood. I was fascinated to hear the stories of how the H'Mong people live today. As little kids ran past us along with all sorts of animals running thru their house I couldn't help but long for a simpler life. They do have electricity and a very old tube tv that you and I might remember from the 80's, but they cook over an open fire pit and sleep on wooden slats. We also heard about the rituals of death and the importance of honouring their dead. When someone dies a water buffalo is slaughtered and the food is used to feed their village as mourning takes several days. This ethnic minority has lived in Lao Cai valley for the last 500 years originating from Mongolia, but some of the other tribes originated from Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. They do not see themselves as Vietnamese. The women wear a traditional outfit that they make themselves which consists of a colourful scarf on their head to protect their long hair, a pair of velvety black shorts to the knee and a pair of leg warmers trimmed with coloured ribbon. Because the weather was so wet they were wearing north face jackets...a hot commodity in this hill town where they sell knock off's for $15. We couldn't resist and We are happy with our purchase!
We also bought handmade purses from a H'Mong woman who followed us the whole way and who carried her goods in a basket on her back. She must have been 60 years old. Her smile infectious!
Our time walking thru the villages gave us an appreciation for a new indigenous culture and its simplicity. And for the beauty of Vietnam even in the midst of pouring rain.