These hill tribes ain't your Benjamins or Zebuluns
Trip Start Mar 11, 2006
45Trip End Aug 01, 2006
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We woke up in Lao Cai with our 6AM arrival, hopped a minibus to Sapa, and soon met our guide, Dom
All the H'mong women (as indeed only females were guides) wear the same navy blue getup with only different colorful patterned armbands for individual expression. Outside the hotel where we met our guides there was also a gang of little H'mong girls selling tourist trinkets, all making you pinky swear that you'll "buy from me, OK." Vu was the best hussla among them, she got everyone to give her half their autobiography as well as letter her fuss with something (i.e. camera, jewelry) of theirs. She even got a hold of my guitar ... which she promptly sued to try to win over some other tourists with a song that she didn't know.
Dom led us to the market to collect food for our two-day trek, bargaining for a few baggies of chicken, veggies, bamboo, and fruit that were soon dangling off our day pack carabiners as we walked out of town. At first it was also very foggy (which I hear makes for great motorcycling conditions, by the way) cutting off our view of the valley what we were trekking along. As we descended, however, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the rice terraces until the trail decrescendoed to nothing and we were plowing through ankle-deep slop. It was moments like that when I grew to really love those full-grain leather boots keeping my feet dry ... until the slop became calf-deep. Even the magic boots have their limits. Along the lake we defacto joined with a few other guides and travellers: two girls working for an NGO in Bangkok (one was from Cal, GO BEARS!), two Dutch brothers, a young Danish couple, and a mom and daughter set from Oz
We finally came across the home where we'd be spending the night. The friendly group of us settled in for a fun and relaxed afternoon-into-night of rather downer fortune telling at first by the odd New York doctor (I will have no love, money, or friends while Ryan's woman has a wandering eye and he's going to prison for white collar crime), what we've learned to be the indispensable and universally known traveller's game of sh*thead (wild 2s, 5s, 7s, and 10s with a clearing and reversing 4-pack is the only way to do it right), delicious dinner and drinks (who knew bamboo could be so good), and sing-along with the guitar until I broke my voice, knowledge bank of songs, and top E-string (but not before we got the whole international crew to learn the first few stanzas of the Cal drinking song!).
On the way back when we broke for lunch, I bought a traditional weaved shirt which I thought was a great deal but would come to regret later in Thailand. Finishing our trek, we hopped a few motorbikes the 30kn back to Sapa. With some time to kill until the van back to the train, I wandered around town, to the market again (this time wearing my traditional shirt so you know I blended right in), and stopped to play a game like hackeysack with some kids, except with a sort of crunchy badminton birdie instead of a beanbag. Soon enough we were outta the north country and steaming our way back to busy Hanoi.
Moral of the story: You can have your friendly, balanced relationship with animals ... and eat them too.