Sapa

24 10 2009

Friday 23/10/09

They gave us a doona for the bed last night and we needed it – what a culture change from the last week and a half! We did our daily laundry in our room as we have been doing and then discovered there was no air conditioner to hang it in front of so we hung it on coat hangers around the room.

1st wash in the bath

1st wash in the bath

We then realised that even though the climate is cooler it is still very humid and there was no way our washing was going to dry by itself. It was only at this point that Maree read the hotel policy info and found that we could be evicted from the hotel for doing washing in the room. So we ended up taking a bag of clean wet washing to be laundered. And they don’t even iron things as far as we have seen! Oh well, at least it is doubly clean.

from hotel patioHaving been warned that today’s trek would be ‘much harder’ Maree deciding that she ought not risk a further strain on her foot took the sensible option and caught up on some reading while I tested the assessment of ‘much harder’ and found it true. Granted it was mostly downhill, but such hills as Australia has never seen. My calf muscles, already tender from yesterday, are protesting unhappily and the many hoardings advertising foot massages are inviting loudly.growing flowers

Setting out this morning guided by a young lady of 20 with a baby on her back and Su (pronounced Shoo), my young Hmong friend from yesterday, we headed down past the township of Sapa with an amazing vista unfolding in the morning fog. Perched on the steep slope Sapa overlooks a plunging valley of cascading rice terraces with mountains towering above the town on all sides, a fact we have only glimpsed through occasional breaks in the mist. paddies & stone fencesSapa was founded as a French hill station in 1922 and the whole area is spectacular. The ‘Black Hmong’ are one of more than 50 ethnolinguistic groups that make up sixteen percent of Vietnam’s population. It was to one of these villages that today’s trek took us.

Spinning topsThe Hmong people have a wonderfully warm and friendly disposition and are delightful to be with. Su and her friend were full of fun, laughing and joking the whole way sounding more like young school girls than the young adults they are. As a people group, most practice their traditional animistic religion. After some questioning I gleaned that Christianity has made some connection but that it is actively discouraged by the Vietnamese authorities and anyone practicing it cannot hold an ID card which is important for employment. I tried to meet some Christians today disappointingly without success.

We crossed suspension bridges and had lunch beside Lao Chai Village (as distinct from the township of Lao Chai which has grown up around the train station) and I was shown into Su’s home where she lives with her parents and 5 sisters. It was a very basic and poor dwelling with a dirt floor and pit fireplace. Tourism has begun to bring money to the village and begun to lift them out of abject poverty but one wonders at what cost to the social culture in the long run. It astonished me to learn that all the rice paddies that the district is famous for fails to provide enough rice for the village and a considerable amount has to be bought at market to provide this staple food supply for the whole year.

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One response

24 10 2009
betty

Joan said hope you are having a lovely time love ..mum

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