Ciarán & Elaine's Travelog

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sapa - day 2

Our second day in Sapa saw us heading off on a 3 hour walk to the villages of Lao Chai and Ta Van.

While we were waiting at the hotel for Mu we got chatting to lots of the local kids who work in the town selling silver and little bracelets. They were so curious about the colour of my hair with one of them actually asking 'what happened to it', they all wanted to touch it and just like in Hoi An, rub my freckles! When Mu arrived a couple of the kids from the Black H'mong tribe decided that they would take the day off and come for the walk with us instead (I think they just wanted to keep an eye on my hair) so off we trooped in the direction of Lao Chai.

It was quite a drizzly day but the cooler weather certainly made the walk more enjoyable. The scenery today was even more beautiful than yesterday and we were lucky enough to see lots of people working in the rice fields, men ploughing with water buffalo's and other young guys bringing wood from the forests. We even saw a couple of young boys catching frogs from a small waterfall. They're quite a popular dinner choice in Sapa, and we reckon the frog may have known what was coming next as it dangled from the piece of string.

Mu pointed out the more interesting flowers and shrubs that are used in traditional medicine. She also showed us the Love Poison plant, eating only one leaf from it can kill you, in fact, her sisters ex-boyfriend ate the plant and died after they were refused permission to marry!

Without a doubt though, the best part of the day was getting to know our new little friends; Na, La, Chun and Lane. They were such gorgeous kids and although they have to work long hours in Sapa they are so happy and free spirited. They're aged between 5 and 8 (Chun is older) and they all speak H'mong, Vietnamese, English and a little bit of French even though they only go to school for 2 hours a day.

The track to the village was quite rugged, often crossing small rivers or walking over slippery ledges but the kids were so agile running ahead but then coming back to tell us 'slippy, careful careful' and taking us by the hand. Then they'd go racing off into the bushes again and come back with different berries for us to taste. They all loved the berry that turns your tongue blue, particularly 5 year old La who must've eaten hundreds of them, by the afternoon half her face was blue! They made us all crowns and wings to wear from ferns (although I'm not sure what Ciaran thought of his wings.....) and spent plenty of time squabbling over whose turn it was to hold my hand.

Not all the girls from the tribes are lucky though, Mu told us quite a frightening fact about being so close to the border with China. For the past number of years there's been a growing number of kidnappings of the girls from the tribes. Aged about 15 to 20, they're taken over the border to China and sold as wives because of the shortage of women in China, one of her friends was kidnapped last year but the family knew somebody in the government and they managed to get her back. They take the girls from the tribes because they usually only speak the tribal language, that way there's no chance they can ask for help.....

All in all though we thought Sapa and the tribal villages were amazing, particularly getting to know the kids. It was the best part of our trip to Vietnam but also one of the highlights from our entire travels. We can't wait to go back someday and seeing as it is so close to the Chinese border maybe we can plan on taking a trip in that direction too!!!


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