Day 16: September 29th: Sapa
After a somewhat rough night on the Victoria night express to Sapa we meet Mao, our Hmong tour guide at the Sapa railway station. We arrive at 6:00 am in the morning after maybe a couple hours of sleep on a very bumpy train ride. I “usually” don’t think…OMG I will die but the thought that this might be my last day on earth appeared every 5 minutes or so when I thought our wagon – which was the very last one of the train – was airborne and will just “rip” off all the other wagons and fall into the abyss.
Well clearly we made it and Mao takes us to a small café close to the railway station and after 16 days of being in Vietnam Mike and I finally cave in and eat Pho at the right time of the day – for breakfast – yes you read right, Vietnamese people eat Pho for breakfast and not for lunch or dinner. Then we embark on a beautiful drive through the Sapa Mountains to the Lung Khau Nhin market.
We are passing tea plantations and lush green forests as well as rice paddies and fruit plantations along the way.
We arrive at a small but lively market, surrounded by towering pine forest in all directions and see Flower H’Mong, TuDi, Tay and Giay ethnic minorities at the market, buying and selling local products, food and fabrics.
Each of the minority groups wear a different outfit – not easy for Mike and I to spot but thankfully Mao explains the differences in clothes and culture . After we explore the market we walk through the nearby Black Dao village and get a quick look into a local school.
The afternoon is spend with a traditional Vietnamese food massage and then a round of chess – but no luck for me, I just can’t protect my queen.
We were so tired from our crazy night train ride that there was no energy left to experience the night life in Sapa, which might not be a bad thing as Asian nightlife seems to be quite different from our US nightlife and you might end up with much more than a coffee or massage or singing Karaoke wink wink….so we ordered in and ate Pho and a Burger (you guess who ordered a Burger in Vietnam) to the monotonous sound of the 6:00 p.m. “news” that blast through the loudspeakers spread through the city – propaganda at its best! Ah and there it was again the deepest and most restful sleep was waiting for us…
Day 17: September 30th Sapa:
We are starting off with an extensive walk through a couple very authentic villages close to Sapa, walking through some of the most stunning rice paddy sceneries and get educated about the traditional Hmong life style.
Hmong people generally come from the hill and mountain area just south of China. According to genetic evidence, Hmong people lived in China for 2000 years before generally migrating south in the 1700s. They moved to escape the oppressive Qing Dynasty.
Most Hmong in the United States come from Laos, but there are many others from Thailand, Vietnam and China. Hmong people have their own language in a couple different styles of dialect. Mao shares with us that the history of the Hmong people is difficult to trace; they have an “oral tradition” and there are no written records except where other people have encountered them.
Hmong history has been passed down through legends and ritual ceremonies from one generation to another as well as through Hmong textile art or story cloths sewn by the women. As you can see from the photos, Mao is wearing a traditional Hmong outfit that she has sown herself, including her purse.
We finish off the evening with an amazing Hot Pot dinner, something that I would like to include into my own home menu. I would say Hot Pot is the Vietnamese form of our fondue but it dates back over a thousand years and comes from China. The hot pot style we had was a big pot of zesty pork broth in which we cooked chicken, beef, pork, ramen noodles, bock choy, bamboo sprouts, some tomatoes, bean sprouts and some more “meaty” tasting mushrooms. It was absolutely delicious and I will try to make a hot pot here in the near future.
After our tasty dinner and LOTS of rice wine you can guess what happens next…we are passing out as usual…how can doing nothing be so exhausting?
……to be continued