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LiL’s Adventures in Sapa and Hanoi – Part 1 – Scenery and Hill Tribes

December 23 2010 at 9:28 PM

LiL  (Login LiL888)

Sapa is another one of those 'must do' in your Vietnam itinerary as it is truly magnificent. Located in the northwestern mountains of the country, Sapa is a modest town nestled within the Hoang Lien Son mountain range in Lao Cai Province.

We arrived at the train station in the city of Lao Cai and boarded a mini van to Sapa. An hour later, the landscape changed from flat to mountainous and the views became dramatic, with terraced rice paddies trickling water from one to another and colorful hill tribe people on the side of the road, carrying baskets of leaves on their backs or selling veggies and fruit from roadside stalls.

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Few tourists will miss an opportunity to trek to mountain villages and majestic waterfalls.


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The mountain slopes are lovely: Steep slopes with light green terraced ridges and darker green trees cluster in the crevasses; shallow valleys are covered in even more terraces that follow the shape of the land so they look like topography markings.


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Ideal place for chilling out

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They make use of the natural resources around them

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Sapa is the central town for a multitude of smaller ethnic-minority farming villages in the region. Different ethnic groups have a tacit agreement between themselves; Saturdays, the Red Dao dominate the Sapa market, but on Sundays, they return to their villages and the Black H'Mong villagers stream in to hawk their handicrafts and trade goods.

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For the entire time you are inside the square, youll hear constant chirping of You buy from me, You buy from me You buy from me... And when you finally do buy something, youll hear you bought from her, you buy from me

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One can tell the difference by the style of clothing and embroidery work each wears and sells. The women of the red dao wear large red head wraps and seem to think large foreheads are beautiful; they pluck their hair so that their hairlines recede under the head wraps. The rest of their outfits are layered skirts and long vests with intricate embroidery work on central panels and along the edges of the clothes. The Black H'Mong, in contrast, either wear no head wraps or a simple black on almost looking like a pill box hat without the top, and they almost all wear big aluminum hoop earrings. Their clothing is primarily dyed in shades of indigo: deep purple, blue, green colors. Their sleeves are decorated in stripes of embroidery and patterned fabric; a long sleeveless vest with a large embroidered upright collar is worn overtop (underneath they wear very simple cullottes to the knees and wrap their shins with strips of cloth. Like leg warmers!)


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Hill tribes live here. What an amazing view

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Cat Cat Village sits atop unspoiled landscapes and is a desirable destination for trekkers seeking to spend full days walking in a world of natural charm and tranquility.
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Visiting the village, tourists will discover various traditional trades of the local people such as weaving, jewelry manipulation, metal work and stone carvings.
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Pigs and hens sharing a meal in peace

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More farm animals

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Its recommended for tourists to catch a local xe om (motorbike taxi) to get around. Another option is to rent a motorbike for VND100,000 ($5.50) a day, which provides a convenient and interesting way to discover the landscape and villages.
Being quite lazy we all took a motor bike taxi back up the mountain, flying by all the trekking nerds was the best part, the scenery was pretty amazing too, it has to be said.




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Pretty Hmong lady

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Pretty Hmong girl

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We enquired into what a married Black Hmong wife has to do. It turns out that they have to wake at 4am to prepare hot water and breakfast for the husband, children and pigs (yes, they too are fed cooked meals ). After that they will wash clothes, tend to the house, cook lunch and dinner. After dinner, the Black Hmong men will gather at a house to drink, we were told that the wife must stay awake should they become hungry so she can cook a meal. This means that if the men stay up until 2am the wife will only get 2hrs sleep. Most of the women work day jobs too, such as tour guides or market stall sellers. Its a tough life. And a life that would be hard to escape should one want to.



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Hmong girls enjoying their lunch at the Sapa market

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Another must-see village is Ta Phin, a remote village located 12km from the centre of Sapa, which still retains traditional customs and lifestyles of the Dao, Tay and Mong ethnic groups.

Red Dzao lady in Taphin Village

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Taphin Village

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Ta Phin Village is able to win tourists hearts thanks to the beautiful sights that surround it. Lavie waterfall is a common destination for trekkers. After trekking through forests, maize fields and mountains, tourists often enjoy soaking in Lavie stream and sunbathing on flat boulders.

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Hardworking locals at Taphin Village

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Homestay at Taphin Village

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Little Vietnamese boy passing time catching butterflies

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Boys catching frogs

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The villagers seeks to capitalize from tourism and thus causes local children and adults to constantly follow visitors, in an effort to persuade them to buy wallets, hats, bags or fabric. However, these sellers tend to be friendly and hospitable.

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Waterfalls a good place to do your laundry

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Tavan village is a home to two different ethnic minorities, the Black Hmong and the Red Dzai

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Bridge at Tavan village

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Paddy fields

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Cows grazing

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Mooo

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Villagers House very basic facilities

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Corn storage

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If you are in Sapa on a Sunday, i highly recommend that you visit Bac Ha market. 80km from Sapa, Bac Ha Market is not only the place for buying and selling, but also a place for cultural and sentiment exchanging.
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It is the largest and most colourful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. Some walk several hours for the weekly opportunity to trade and barter food, animals, clothes and household goods
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The pungent fumes of alcohol from corn whiskey, a Bac Ha specialty, accost your sense of smell,. The potent moonshine is decantered by vendors from large white plastic jugs to used bottled water containers. If you doubt the ability of a vendor's hooch to peel paint or light your senses on fire, you can try a shot for free.

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Many different ethnic groups such as Flower H'mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere.

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At the fair, adventurous gastronomes can try thang co blood porridge, a popular dish of the HMong and other local people.
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Though tourists were not in short supply, they were not the focus. Most locals paid little attention to them, rather choosing to focus on their business and the short Sunday-sized window of opportunity

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Flower Hmong ladies with their babies

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Adorable kids

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After eating our fill at the BacHa market, our tour guide took us to a nearby village

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Baby Pig reminds me of Babe

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Bull hard at work

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Tourists helping out a bus driver in need

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Heavy loads on backs

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Kind hearted European girl helping to lighten the load


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There is always work to be done in BacHa village

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Poverty. Cannot afford new trousers

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of LiLs Avenures in Sapa and Hanoi

( Please note that some of the text has been lifted off other articles on the Internet but the photos are all original. The opinions expressed here are based on my personal experience )



 
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Helen
(Login elanoftroy)
AP Discussion Group

So far very lovely

December 23 2010, 10:32 PM 

Lil,

The women all look diligent, hard working and lovely in their facial features.  I find it interesting that those women with the red head dress go as far as to pluck the hair so their foreheads look larger, wow, that must be painful.  I also like the rice terraces, they add a special beauty to the landscape.  And the little piggies get a home cooked dinner? I thought my friend's dog was spoiled; he eats only slow cooked chicken in a special sauce. 

After seeing the last photo of the lady with the hole in her pants, I am not going to complain about my wardrobe but rather be thankful for it.  I want to a resort town in Mexico once and could not enjoy my time there because of the surrounding poverty.

Thank you Lil for sharing your wonderful travels, you've done a marvelous job.  Btw, where are Pins and Needles?

Warmest Regards,

Helen


 
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LiL
(Login LiL888)

Re: So far very lovely

December 24 2010, 12:58 AM 

Hiii Helen..

Merry Christmas to you.

Needles and Pins are doing great. Pins gave birth to 6 pink hoglets 20 days ago and you may view their photos here.http://www.facebook.com/#!/needles.ong?v=photos

I am syringe feeding her sole albino hoglet at the moment and it is really time consuming.

Hugs
LiL

 
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Helen
(Login elanoftroy)
AP Discussion Group

I'm so sorry

December 24 2010, 2:02 PM 

I'm so sorry to read about Snow passing.  I'm trying to read your fb entry but having a difficult time getting it to come up. 

Merry Christmas grandma,

Helen


 
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LiL
(Login LiL888)

Hope Snow is happy in hedgie heaven

December 25 2010, 1:36 AM 

He was so fragile and helpless that he would have health problems had he survived to adulthood

 
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Helen
(Login elanoftroy)
AP Discussion Group

I'm so sorry

December 24 2010, 2:03 PM 

I'm so sorry to read about Snow passing.  I'm trying to read your fb entry but having a difficult time getting it to come up, my computer is running slow. 

Merry Christmas grandma,

Helen


 
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Helen
(Login elanoftroy)
AP Discussion Group

I imagine

December 24 2010, 2:29 PM 

Lil,

This could be the reason Pins was acting so unsocial for so long, she was pregnant.  I hope she's is doing well and is a good mother.  How is Needles taking all this? 

My computer is running very slow and I'm having a difficult time seeing your pictures on fb.  When it starts working right I'll request you and your babies as friends.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years,

Helen


 
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LiL
(Login LiL888)

Re: I imagine

December 25 2010, 1:42 AM 

Hahaha.. I blame myself for Pins's huffiness. I should have spent more time with her when she
was growing up. She is probably jealous that Needles's receives 95% of my attention

Pins is a pretty good mother other than the fact that she let Snow and Tiny die. Needles does not play a role in the life of the hoglets other than mating with Pins. I placed Needles in Pins's cage last week and she gave him a vicious bite ! I wonder why she does not recognize him as the father of her babies

See u on Facebook. I have photos of the daily progress of the hoglets happy.gif

 
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SJX
(Login JiaXian)
AP Discussion Group

Great photos Liling!

December 24 2010, 3:01 AM 

I love your photography as usual.

- SJX

 
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LiL
(Login LiL888)

Re: Great photos Liling!

December 25 2010, 1:43 AM 

Thanks for viewing SJX. Merry Xmas !

 
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Adrina
(no login)

Lovely Sapa

December 24 2010, 9:13 AM 

Hi Lil

Merry Christmas to you and Stephen

Great picture, I truly love to visit Sapa again. The terraced rice paddies are beautiful. Regret didn't buyg those beautiful hand made and cheap handbags. Great for gifts.

I also remembered we bought two cooked eggs from the roadside stall and when cracked open one of them have a half formed chick inside. It seems they love to eat that. It make us puke.

Hope you will continue to share with us your next adventure.

Best wishes
Adrina

 
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LiL
(Login LiL888)

Re: Lovely Sapa

December 25 2010, 1:46 AM 

Eeww... Is that egg thing like the "balut" which is popular in the Philippines ? Although it looks disgusting I would definitely like to try one. Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods likes the taste

 
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