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Wandering among the Hmong of Sapa, Vietnam

It is amazing to believe there are people in this world who do not have running water, constant power let alone internet and TV. I had a chance to go to a huge tourist place in Vietnam called Sapa. The village is close to the Chinese-Vietnam border. It is popular for tourists to come and take pictures of the local hill tribe people called the Hmong tribe.

They dress in mostly black and wear a lot of silver. In the town the sell everything to the local tourists. They ask all the westerners, who are bussed in, “buy from me.”  They can be a pain in the town since they usually swarm the busses that come into the town. During my time in the town itself, that is how I feel. The local hotels and hostels offer “tours” to go out and see how they live. For me, this means what they show is pretty much a “show” nothing less. It is not my style

With Jared and Mike we set off one day to explore the area. It is illegal to explore the area without a “guide.” Having explored a bit of N.Korea and a few other places in China, it meant they only want to show you what they want you to see. We went off and explored. We took off down this small path. We were the only westerners around. The people were very friendly by saying hi and smiling a lot as they went along tending to their farms, their pigs, and their children. I was amazed at how black their hands were. I was informed it was the time to make charcoal. Most of the people were doing it hence their hands were black. The homes did not have any electricity, running water, heat (other than burning things) or much else. I was also surprised at how young the tribes’ people were. Most had 3-5 children per house who were running around without a care in the world. We explored more and came across stunning water falls, small wooden houses with people living in them. They didn’t ask for change or ask for anything. Most had a puzzled expression on their face as if to say “what are you doing here?”

For me the question was more along the lines of “how can they live here?” From that steams questions about education, health, shared knowledge and a whole host of other issues. Is tourism their only source of income and if so, how can we change that or is it something they wish to change?  Every corner we turned, we saw children play in the fields with no worries in the world. They have no idea about PS3, TV, demanding school work (aka academies and hakwans). They were happy and it is something I marveled at.

Published in Sights and Travels