Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Among the H'mong

In the rice-terraced mountains surrounding Sapa live a number of indigenous tribal peoples. The H'mong, Red Dzao, and Zai tribes populate the area and can be seen in town selling their woven handicrafts.

The terraced hills near a H'mong village

A Flower H'mong Woman
Nyui works on a shirt she is making
All of the women are clad in brightly colored traditional clothing and are adorned with beautiful jewlery and wrapped    headdresses. History is preserved in their appearance and the contrast between the traditionally dressed women and the surrounding French architecture is a unique spectacle. We meet a H'mong woman named Nyui. After talking for a short time we negotiate a price for her to guide us through the hills to stay in her village.


A river crossing
 The next morning we follow our guide out of town and down the steep slopes to the river valley below Sapa.The rice has already been harvested but the terraced hills still provide breathtaking views. It's as if we've take a trip back in time. Water buffalo wade through the terraces munching away at grass and chickens, ducks, pigs, and barefoot children run around, freely, through the villages. It's slow, village life.

Nuyi's two daughters study Vietnamese.

We cross the river and follow Nyui, climbing and zig-zagging up the opposite side of the valley until we reach her house, nestled between the terraces, with streams running past on either side. We meet her husband and her children, two girls and a boy. Nyui works on a shirt she is making, the children spend the day and evening playing and doing schoolwork. We relax, Cozette and I enjoy the view and or surroundings.

Baby on board.

 For lunch and dinner we eat pan cooked pork, greens of some sort (Nyui didn't know the name) , and rice. The food is cooked entirely over a fire pit dug into the floor of the dimly lit home. It's delicious. After dinner we're offered rice wine, a strong, pure, alcohol, made from the grain. We go to sleep early.

The next morning after breakfast and after the children have gone to school, we set off to visit another village before walking the 10 kilometers back to Sapa. The experience has been truly priceless and Cozette and I are on a high as we say goodbye to Nyui. Our stay in the terraced H'mong village has been a humbling experience that neither Cozette or I will be able to forget. The people are living as traditionally as possible in this day and age, and to have the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a H'mong family, we both agree, has been extraordinary.

Flower H'mong

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