July 21, 2007
The Sapa Valley in the mountains of northern Vietnam is a great place for trekking. The landscapes and views are majestic, but it is also an opportunity to meet some of the interesting hill tribes. In the mountains around the borders of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, many hill tribes live their traditional lives. These ethnic minorities live in relatively primitive conditions, isolated from the rest of the population.
Although the tribes are related to each other, they come in a lot of varieties, each with their own traditional clothes and lifestyle. We meet several of these tribes in the beautiful surroundings around the northern Vietnamese mountain village of Sapa.
We took an overnight train from Hanoi that was stinking hot. When we arrived at the train station it was nice to have a change of climate. Weather around the Sapa area was no more than 25°. We then walked out into the train station car park and we were lead to a minivan.
During the 38 kilometres long winding and bumping road through Sapa Valley up to Sapa, the fog disappears and the sun arrives. The minivan drops us at a hotel from which the driver receives a commission, but we walk on to an area where more hotels are located.
While we are walking, we are approached by a number of nicely dressed girls of one of the mountain tribes (later identified as the Black H’mong). They offer us all kinds of souvenirs, but we decline. We do, however, have a nice conversation with them, and wonder about how well they speak English. In the following days, we will meet them very often. And each time, they will start with “Remember me?” followed by; “Buy this from me?”
The first couple of days we spent looking around the town. We walked up a steep hill that leads through a garden to the summit where we took in the surroundings.
Sam and I also hired a bike between us and braved the muddy roads up to a waterfall. We were lucky to survive that trip in one piece as the roads were hazardous; thick slippery mud. My shoes needed an immediate clean afterwards.