Hello and welcome to Sapa. Last November, I found myself in northern Vietnam. Sapa is best known for its terraced rice paddy hillsides. The days leading to harvest, the brilliant fields are glowing with abundance. I broke one of my cardinal rules of travel: I scrolled professional photos for hours. I just couldn’t resist. Sapa has such a foreign landscape and I wanted to soak it all in.
Lost with infatuation, I neglected one major detail: the ideal time of year to visit. Nothing looked as expected. That is a story in and of itself, however. One worth telling. Once it is posted, I will update this post ⏱😋.
What I am here today to share with you is my experience with Sung & Chan of the Hmong people. Chan and her husband Sung run a fledgling tour company that aims to deliver an authentic experience. To me, the entire trip was absolutely beautiful. Despite the mud, freezing rain, and foggy conditions, our spirits were high and we had a truly remarkable time.
We trekked for hours. The hike ended at Sung’s family’s house. We were treated to a home cooked feast. We drank round after round of “happy water,” a fermented rice liquor that went down all too easily. There was another group of backpackers passing through that evening. We drank. We shared stories. We drank some more. We dried our feet around the campfire. We went to bed full and happy.
The next morning, I sat outside the family’s house eating a delicious stack of banana pancakes as Chan told her story. She told us all of her people, the Hmong, and the influence of and opportunities provided by tourism. She told us of Hmong traditions. After the birth of a newborn, the mother must live outside the main house and cannot enter the home for any reason. So, there was a small temporary shelter erected just outside for her and the baby.
I watched as the oldest daughter played about the home. She was such a cheeky little thing. The photo you see above I took right after breakfast. She was protecting the newborn, but at same time, devilishly biting her fingers 😈
I took this photo the same morning. Here you see Sung with his baby daughter. Normally, they would take her trekking in that jumper, but since the arrival of the newborn, she has stayed home with Chan.
I felt honored to be invited in their home. The Vietnamese people as a whole are friendly and welcoming. I am so thankful and grateful for my experience. It was truly memorable and one of the highlights of my entire trip. xx