Sunday, 18 March 2012

With the Hilltribes of Northern Vietnam

The major attraction of travelling to Vietnam's far north is to visit the villages of its ethnic minority hilltribes. Our brief three-day holiday in Sapa afforded us three treks of varying lengths (between two two five hours) to visit the villages of the Black Hmong and Red Dao. We started with a short trek to Cat Cat Waterfall, and on the way passed by terraced hillsides, Cat Cat's handicraft village and its many children.

There's some fun to be had playing around in a voluminous rice-holding container, or hanging out at the village coffee shop.

Hmong boys have it tougher, as they labour in the fields or have to carry loads of firewood up and down the hillside. This group with empty baskets make a swift ascent hundreds of steps.

One of the most endearing sights in all humanity, the madonna and child.

Black Hmong cultural show held at the old hydro-electric power station overlooking Cat Cat Waterfall. From the left, a young man plays on tribal panpipes (producing only two tones for all his trouble), the ubiquitous bamboo walk and umbrella dance.

Hmong children at Lao Chai stand on a rock outside their home, witnessing the curious scene of tourists bargaining with Black Hmong saleswomen.

Now you know that all those beautiful handicrafts are not factory-made but painstakingly sewn and stitched by Black Hmong women, seen in the village of Lao Chai.

Girls playing the universal game of "pick up sticks" outside their primary school in Lao Chai, while another group chew on sugar cane. The littlest one is crying because she doesn't get any.

The trail to the village of Ta Phin. Red Dao women are particularly hard to shake off, and they followed us for the full four hours until their sale was made. A Hmong little boy, just out of infancy, takes his first steps while two Black Hmong girls walk to school.

Rediscovering the wheel in the village of Ma Cha.

A pensive Red Dao girl in the village of Ta Phin ponders on what living in modern Vietnam in the 21st century world holds for her.

No comments: