It’s been over two months since we spent a couple of days in the mountains of North Vietnam. We saw sights I’ll never forget.
We had a chance to visit Minority Tribes in this remote part of the world, very close to the Chinese border. I felt like I had zoomed back in time hundreds of years. People live in small villages in hut like houses with no running water. Heat and cooking take place on small fires and the only signs of civilization were occasional TV’s and, of course, cell phones. Not many though.
To get to Sapa where we stayed, we took an all night sleeper train. Interesting. The distance was only 250 kilometers but took 10 hours. I understand it would have taken almost twice that to drive on some barely passable roads.
The train was very civilized and comfortable with room service and hospitable staff.
We were greeted by our charming guide, who straight away took us off to a remote village about a four hour drive north where we could attend the weekly market.
As we got closer to the small hamlet, we kept seeing people walking along the road, babies in packs and walking sticks in hand. It was rainy and muddy, so many wore rubber boots, I’d call Wellies, with their colorful tribal attire.
The market itself was a visual treat. It was an odd mix of piles of embroidered tribal clothing, house hold goods, some fruits and vegetables and North Face jackets. The folks we saw not only shopped for goods and foods, but enjoyed time catching up with neighborhood news. We saw young people checking each other out, poking each other and snickering the way teenagers are apt to do, while the elderly gossiped, sharing sly grins. Many stared at us, strange looking foreigners in their midst.
Some gathering around a fires sipping rice wine or hot tea, trying to get warm.
There were beautiful things sold in the market. I picked up a couple of little skirts for my grand daughters like the ones in the photo below but I’m sorry I didn’t buy more. The embroidery and weaving the women do here is extraordinary.
It was very cold being winter in North Vietnam. And we happened to hit a colder than usual spell. In fact, school was canceled in many of the little villages because the class rooms had no heat. It made me very sad to see small children scampering around barefoot with runny noses. This little fellow broke my heart. I was glad that we had some small apples to hand out. They are a special treat for these children. (More on this in my next blog post).
We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the countryside with the terraced rice fields and the meandering water buffalo. It was off season for growing rice except in a few low lying areas where nursery fields were being started. We were told that some of the more ambitious growers tried to get their fields started before TET, the Asian New Year, when families and friends party and celebrate the coming season. I suspect a lot of that rice wine gets consumed.
I absolutely loved our experience here but would like to return during the growing season when the sun shines. It must be stunning.