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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sapa Trekking with a Vengeance

Yan on the way up the mountain

Today we fell into one of those slightly out of control experiences traveling throws at you. Sapa is full of Hmong women from the surrounding villages who try to sell you small handcraft items. They are wily and persistent and have all kinds of tricks to make you feel obliged. If you won't buy right away they tie little ribbons around you wrists as a pinky promise and chastise you if you don't fulfill the promise. Anyway we struck up a relationship with Yan and agreed to go on a walking trek to her village this morning.

In the hills above Sapa

At 9 am the valley was full of mist so we postponed till 10. Then I met another woman who offered to do it for a third of the US $15 each, but when I went back she refused and later told me she had been told off for undercutting the others. So we took off with Yan who is a very intelligent charming 30 year old Hmong women and in a band with several others we walked in the now pretty hot morning all the way through town and then up a steep winding dirt track that got ever higher and steeper until Christine was nearly expiring.

High rice paddies looking down into the valley lowlands

After a heavy hike we emerged into a winding track up and down over the highlands with superb views off the entire surrounding area, into a fairly remotes valley and highland area and eventually back to the Sapa valley where we wound down and down past maize tea cannabis and eventually rice paddies to her village of Hao Thao.

Coming down into Hao Thao

We stopped at her sisters house and were treated to a delightful late lunch of vegetarian dishes and rice before being escorted by Yan and all her Hmong saleswomen entourage down to the road where they arranged motorbikes to bring us back the 10 kms or so to town.

Cooking in the kitchen fire

Apart from being a gruelling hot climb up and down it was a very engaging experience partly because Yan is vey talkative and can engage a very informative conversation and her family is very welcoming and friendly. I'm sure it was the best way to have a meaningful cultural interaction out of the overblown tourist orbit of guided tours of the hill tribes. Christine's knees are so stiff she has to walk down the stairs sideways!

 Family lunch for the weary trekkers

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris, Susan here (Robin's daughter). I vividly remember a similar experience in Sapa last year when I travelled in Vietnam -and being literally chased by the local H'mong women down the road! If you can get past being seen as a walking ATM, it's possible to have a lovely experience here. I hired a moped and biked down some of the hill roads one day, and that was very memorable, although possibly a bit dangerous. All the best for the remainder of your travels!