5 hr trek - Sapa and beyond
Apr 15, 2005
We decided to give SaPa one last chance to win our hearts and I am really glad that we did.
Through our guest house we arranged a trek along the Flower Red River to Lao Chai and Ta Ban. Our guide for the day was a young girl called Be who is a Black Hmong. You will see from the photos that the traditional dress of these people is not as colourful as the Flower Hmong we visited around Ba Cha but is beautiful nevertheless. Be, 17, is one of ten children and the only one of her family to work as a guide. The rest of her family work long hours in the paddy fields for $1 per day and occasionally embroider linens to sell to the tourists. Be, who taught herself English by speaking with tourists as a child is now the main breadwinner for the family. Her English is excellent and she hopes to teach in the local school one day. I really hope she gets her dream as she was an absolute delight singing and joking and stuffing us with sweets all the way.
As soon as our route left the comfort of tarmac we were approached by children selling bamboo poles for us to use on our journey. I am quite certain that had we not hired these poles we would have fallen on more than one occasion. Even with the pole I misjudged my footing and plunged by boot into a stream - even goretex can't save you once the water goes over the top.
After trekking down the valley and along the river for about 90 minutes we reached the house of Be's older sister's family. We were invited to look around the house and join the women for dinner. At this point the men were still out at work, but when they returned they lost no time in convincing us to sampel their rice wine - so potent that it can ignite and stored for safety in a container that us Westerners would use for petrol. Unable to decline we both drank it down only to have our glasses swiftly refilled, luckily Be told us that it is customary to keep a guest's glass filled and it would not be impolite to leave it untouched.
Having filled up on rice and cabbage seasoned with chilli nearly as potent as the wine we set off for the next village. This was populated by the less exotic Xai people who have now discarded most of there customary green clothing in favour of Western dress.
En route we popped our heads into a classroom at Be's old school. Children study for 4 fours per day between the ages of 6 and 13.The school building was in very poor condition compared to those we saw near Bac Ha a reminder of the low social standing of the minority people. Very few HMong, even those as bright as Be, progress to higher education because of the high tuition fees and the need for them to bring to money into the family as soon as they are able.
Having completed our trekking we climbed aboard an ancient Russian Jeep and embarked upon a very bumpy ride back to Sapa.
Day 47 complete