We ignored the guidebook, the travel blogs, even the official weather site all informing us that Sapa, a small town located in Northern Vietnam, would be rainy, cold and covered in a blanket of mist. We were sure that as soon as we stepped off the bus the mist would clear, the rain would cease; to reveal to us the bright green terraced rice fields and towering mountains we were longing to see. I believe the correct word for this thought process is DELUSIONAL....
The view from our room
Despite the weather and zero visibility we thoroughly enjoy Sapa. Most of our time is spent in our room by the fireplace drinking hot chocolate and apple cinnamon tea.
Another cool thing about Sapa is the hill tribe groups that live in the mountains. We had seen tons of photos of them dressed in their brightly colored traditional clothing with wrists and ears clad in silver jewelry they have made. We soon realize that we don't have to go far to meet them. The women come down to Sapa to sell their handicrafts to the tourists. When we do venture out of our room we meet Tian and Tua from the Dzao tribe. Their village is 23 km away from Sapa and they spend three nights a week in town away from their families to sell their wares. They win us over with their beautiful faces, sweet smiles and broken English. We buy some earrings and a jaw harp from them.
Next we meet some women from the Hmong tribe, easily recognized by their plaid head dress.
One of them, Chi, has a very different sales approach....
Ying and Chi
Chi “ What's your name?”
Pete tells her his name
Pete “No, Pete”
Chi “Pig?” (makes pig noises) everyone laughs
Pete “No Pete”(accentuating the T)
Chi “Pig?” (makes more pig noises) everyone laughs, including me
Chi “Why you buy from Dzao and not Hmong”
Us “We don't have to buy from everyone”
Chi “You promise you buy from me”
Us “We just met you!"
Chi “Your promise is shit”
Chi “Your promise is shit! I follow you till you buy from me......you get tired”
We walk faster and finally get to our hotel room and Chi yells at us through her gold toothed grin “See you tomorrow”
We come down for breakfast and Chi is outside waving at us.
We eat our breakfast and try to ignore her, but we aren't the kind of people who can ignore someone so we smile and wave and this encourages her.
We want to go walk around and explore the town, but we don't feel like being followed, so we sulk back to our room.
Around our fire we devise several plans to escape her.
We could sneak out after dark.
We could run.
We could change clothes and maybe they wouldn't recognize us.
We could dig a tunnel under the building that leads to the opposite end of town.
We spend the day in the room and eat dinner in our restaurant.
The following morning there is no one waiting outside for us, so we venture to the market.
It only takes two minutes for Chi and four other Hmong women to find us.
“Why you no buy from Hmong?”
We cut our day short and vow to never leave our room again.
On our final day we see Chi and I decide to buy a silver bracelet from her. When we leave she picks me up and gives me a hug. I realize that I like her and her sharp sense of humor.
A few hours later on our bus ride we discuss the previous days events and the women we have met in Sapa. We talk about how camera toting tourists have taken over their mountains and they are doing what any savvy business women would do. They are conforming and capitalizing on it. Now that I am hundreds of kilometers away from the situation and have a more objective viewpoint, I can easily say.....good for the them!