We headed off at around 9am today. The first stop was to a village with Red Muong people in it. We had to walk about 3kms downhill to get into the village. So yep, that's 3kms uphill on the way back. The journey to this first stop was rather cold!! but of course the sun shone through brightly and strongly and hot when we had to climb up the mountain back to the bike.
As we entered the village we weren't too much of a spectacle, we wandered around and then went into a place where they were taking the corn off the cob. The dried corn off the cob. I am soo impressed with the ingenuity. There was a poor kid that eyed me up for a bit and then burst into tears and went running away screaming, only to be bought back. Another child scarred for life from seeing a big white chick.
We then wandered around and saw other people in the village, some of the slightly older kids were quite curious, we went down to this big field where they were laying out big tarpaulines and drying their rice harvest. Guess they put it out every day and bring it in every night. What was really amazing to me is how they had set things up. As we wandered around a bit more I saw fish ponds that they had made to breed fish, then this contraption that I have a pic of. It catches water that runs down a guided waterway/stream and then it turns this thing and generates power. Then another part of the water way has a half piece of bamboo that is just catching and redirecting that small amount of water into another pond. The rest of the water continues on it's usual path. Really impressive irrigation and power generation techniques.
After the climb out of that village we headed to another village with the Red Muong people. They were all sitting around sewing and chatting and we waltz on up there and interrupt them. Again yet another baby starts to cry in terror. Mr Bing has been constantly taking photo's himself and insisting that I do. I must say that I was really starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the whole thing of going into their villages.
I started wondering if it is really right for me to be getting wowed and entertained by these peoples every day life. The reason I was allowed in there is because the hotel in Ninh Binhs owner went around and spoke to the head of these villages. It apparently took them a long time for them to come round to the idea, but when they were offered money in place of tourists coming through and photographing them etc of course the temptation and greed must have overcome their preference for privacy. When I learnt that after this second village I was quite disconcerted. What was I doing there really!! What good and what bad was I doing for these people. They are learning that they are a spectacle, just as much as I am to them too of course, but that people can come into their village, pay them money, and then be wowed by their everyday life. I felt privileged to be able to see it but as much as I was traumatising children too I also started to feel like an invader and an exploiter.
I dread to think what will become of these villages in a few years when they realise that they can in fact make more money of being spectacles for tourists than running their own villages and being self sufficient. Much the same as my fear in Cat Ba when I realised they paid the farmer more money to have us walk through their property than they made on their farm, but the only thing that stopped them from quitting farming was the fact that they were fully aware that the tourists could stop coming through their farmland at any time.
The difference here is that these villages will be enough of a lure in themselves that they just have to keep up only what they would want to keep up and can go and buy the rest of what they need. Anyways, after a bike ride of reflection once I left that village we went to a town called Moc Chau and had the most delightful fresh yoghurt. They had cows I recognised, which also explains why they had fresh milk and yoghurt. I wasn't going to have any seems I don't do dairy but I couldn't pass it up. Heavens if I can eat the things I've eaten then I can do a glass of yoghurt.
Lunch was next and then a long journey back to where we were staying.
When we got back, again I ate with the family. Oh and indulged in a fair amoutn of their rice wine/rice whisky. I then went for a wander around the place with some new additions to our accommodation who were from Switzerland. So there were 3 of us that headed off and found this bar that was playing local music. We decided that that would be a great place to go in and check out. Boy.. what a 30min cultural experience. We get welcomed in and discover that we are the only 2 women in the entire place aside from the local people dancing and performing. These drunk men didn't seem to care who they accosted as the guy was also being tugged and pulled and dragged quite forcefully up onto the dance floor area and we were interrupting the traditional dance. In fact these guys were by all accounts completely shit faced. I mean fall over drunk. I nearly had my arm wrenched out of my socket as I finally managed to sit down and have these two guys being all leary and touchy feeling.
A couple of funny moments in amongst it all is that the guy got kissed by one of the locals. It was absolutely hilarious.. thankfully he was chilled out enough not to floor the guy and also realised that perhaps that would be a bad choice as well. But the other thing that was funny is that I don't go anywhere without my water bottle. Now all the homemade rice wine comes in plastic water bottles so these drunken souls were completely and utterly convinced that I was carrying around a very full bottle of booze. Hence some more grabbing and smiling and raising of their little shot glasses. I'm trying to tell them it's water and they just don't believe me. In hindsight I should have just stood up and skulled back the entire bottle and went ahh!! at the end. Duh!! but instead I decided their was only one way to humour them and that was to fill up their little glasses with my water, seems they didnt' believe me. The real treat was to watch their faces as they tipped it down their throats. It was a look of complete confusion!!
After that we high tailed it outa there. phew phew phew!!
I decided to walk around a bit more and found Ash the german guy with some other english blokes, then Mr Bing came along and dragged me into this house, where they were all liquored up on rice wine and down went a few more shots of the stuff. They had some left over food there too.. Guess what was on display and what I just had to eat. Well actually initially I had no idea what it was, it was very obviously an insect as it had a head and little legs etc but what exactly was beyond me. At any rate I woofed down about 7 of them and then carried one back outside to the blokes at the table and asked them to identify it for me. So.. now I have crickets to add to my list of foods that I've been eating. I'm going to almost be challenging Ian Wright soon if I keep this up :)
After that I stumbled (too much rice wine) back out to the guys and sat there for a while, then I got to learn that 1 guy is married to a vietnamese girl, 2 guys were there visiting and they had been harrassed the night before by the police for not having their passports with them. You have to be registered every where you go and apparently this guy that was a spy had managed to nail them the night before and they had told the police that their passports were at the hotel in Hanoi. There were given a day to have it faxed to Ban Lac. Well of course they couldn't do that as the passports were at their friends house where they also had not been registered to stay and there was no one to send it to them. The police had taken the travel papers of the vietnamese wife and her english husband as collateral. So when I had only been there for a few minutes the cop turned up and then dragged them over and gave them all amounts of grief. I decided it was a good time to leave before I got involved although I at least had my passport with me.
I never found out what happened to them but most likely a bit of bribery would have gotten them out of it. It's just sooo ridiculous how these countries function in that way.