Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa (the region) reminds me of Sapna (the word for dream in Hindi).  Yes, this was a beautiful dream.

Irit and I took an overnight sleeper train from Hanoi to Sapa (north of Vietnam) to trek through the beautiful rice terraces of the region.

Once we arrived, we went to the tourist office and booked our daylong trek through the Cat Cat valley to visit some of the villages of the local tribes people.

Our guide was a very energetic 16-year-old girl from the Black H’mong tribe named Zao. She was adorned in her tribal outfit and jewelry.  Later, she told us how much she hated wearing it because she gets so hot and it literally turned her blue (the H’mong use indigo plants to die their costumes blue).

We learned a lot about the different tribes and their way of living.  Zao seemed quite different from the rest.  While most H’Mong girls hope to get married before 18, Zao wants to be independent until the age of 24.  She wants to travel the world and learn perfect English so she can return to Sapa and teach the children of the village proper English in order for them to earn a better living some day.

On our way down the mountain, we could see an endless landscape of rice terraces stretching for miles. It had rained the night before so we could not take some of the designated trails.  Zao kindly asked some of the farmers if we could walk on their fields as they were working on it.  With a big toothy smile they said yes.

Later, we encountered a little girl sitting on the side of the trail carrying a basket full of branches.  Irit and I thought that this girl was so young to do such manual labor.  Zao explained that at the age of 5 she carried her siblings on her back while her parents worked in the fields and at the age of 8 she worked in the fields and/ or carried baskets of branches such as the girl pictures below.  Quite normal for a H’mong.

After some more trekking, we rested a bit.  We started talking to (or rather, Zao was translating)…) 3 boys shyly covered underneath blankets. Another boy played the flute and was serenading Zao.  She called them lazy and the boys said they were working in the fields all day and now sleeping.  Zao didn’t believe them and the flute player told her that he is trying to make enough money to marry her.  I think they were a bit intimidated that she was earning a “decent” living.

I cannot even begin to describe how beautiful, serene, meditative and mysterious the rice terraces looked.  All the villagers we passed along the way always had a smile on their face when you looked at them.

Halfway through the trek, Zao cooked lunch for us.  The place we ate was a shack but had one of the best views of the rice terraces.

At the end of our tour, while Irit and I were covered in mud, we noticed that Zao did not even have a speck of mud on her little pink shoes shoes.  Apparently the H’Mongs trek for 3 hours each way to get to the Sapa to sell their homemade goods to tourists.  If it’s a lucky day then they can afford to pay for a ride home on the back of a motorcycle.

And of course, we ended the day with a delicious meal at a Red Dao tribal restaurant.

I really hope to come back here someday.  It is such a special place and I highly recommend it should you visit Vietnam.


8 Responses to “Sapa, Vietnam”

  1. as always, your pics are amazing.

  2. Looks like a really beautiful place. Great photo of the little girl too.

  3. Amazing Bijal. If only you were still in middle school because this would make a great “what do you do this summer” report.

  4. You got very good photos.

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