Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sa Pa, Vietnam

Sa Pa was the main reason we wanted to go to Vietnam.. The northern regions of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand have many hills that are full of tribes that live off the land.. Sa Pa looked to be very beautiful, and I read the tribes welcome tourist to show around.. 
So we flew into the capital, Hanoi, and rode and overnight train to far northwest Vietnam to meet these tribal people and to trek with them on their land.. The overnight train was a first for us.. It's not like the trains in Europe.. Imagine being on a boat that sways and and airplane going through turbulance at the same time.. It was a bumpy ride, but we slept well..  
I had arranged for a black h'mong guide to trek with before we arrived, and she met us at our hotel once we checked in.. Her name was Maya, 26 years old, and married with two kids.. There are several tribes in the mountains, but the black h'mong tribe is the largest..
Maya's plan for us the first day was a light trek.. She took us through Cat Cat Village where we got to go inside a home.. A lady was there making rice wine in her kitchen and let us try a sip.. Rice wine isn't a good name for her concoction.. Rice moonshine would be much more appropriate.. It was so strong! Her house was made of wood and bamboo from the mountains.. She had a hundred or more ears of corn hanging from her ceiling for her family to eat  on for the whole year.. We thanked her, took pictures of her kids and headed to our guide's house.
Maya's house was very nice compared to others in the area.. She said it cost about $3k usd.. Her husband went into the mountains to chop trees down for the frame which took 10 men to carry down.. 
Our next day was a tough trek! It started raining during the night so everything was very, very slick.. Climbing narrow, muddy paths was pretty scary because one wrong step would send us tumbling down the steep mountain.. Luckily, Maya brought other h'mong women to help us.. They are seriously part mountain goat! They zipped through the muddy hills with ease.. At some parts, I had the ladies on each side of me holding both of my hands to make sure I didn't slip..  Those tiny women even had to help Joshua a couple times.. It was really rough but so very worth the amazing views of the mountains, rice terraces, and also to experience the company of the tribe ladies.. They really loved showing us around.. They were so proud of their land and culture.. They hand make their clothes from hemp, dye them with indigo plants and embroider beautiful patterns on them.. We purchased a couple of their handmade things, and they even gave us gifts as well- bracelets and small tokens they made from grass, flowers, and weeds along our trek.. 
Saying goodbye was a little more difficult than I thought it would be.. We will never see them again, but the memories they helped us make will always be cherished.

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