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crustyadventures Random travel thoughts from WorldNomad's Community Manager

Mud spatterings and hellos

VIETNAM | Sunday, 14 December 2003 | Views [1672]

Thanks for your mails of late: it was wonderful to return mud-splattered and damp from the mountains in Sapa to a load of news from home (and indeed, around the world!).

I've just had my shoes shined by the shoe-shine boy for 5000 dong (about 60 cents) - and biy did he have his work cut out for him.  After 5 days schlepping through muddy trails across rice paddies in the mountains, I'm back in Hanoi for a day.  Now would be the time to find myself a foot-massage - all the latest rage in VietNam for idle youth.

I had a fantastic time on the treks... although in Australia, we'd probably call them long walks as they weren't strenuous enough to warrant my concerns about not being fit.  As the local guides work 7 days a week without holidays, they're looking for all the short-cuts they can find - and that includes getting the paying punters to carry the lunch food in order to slow them down a bit.

I finally found the cold weather in Vietnam - it was in the mountains, breathing quietly through the heavy mists that hid the tiny villages in the valleys below.  My thermal underwear kept me happy, but I spent a lot of time wondering what the Black H'Mong girls wore under their traditional indigo-dyed clothes - the short skirts and leg wrappings didn't seem well suited to the temperatures.  But then again, they wore plastic sandals up and down the slippery slopes - a small concession to modern conveniences - but still sturdy enough when they needed to carry small children or a load of rice sacks on their backs.  They laughed continuously and stopped bothering to try and sell you stuff if you laughed along with them.

On the first day, I walked with a few fellow travellers and a guide called Long (Dragon) down to a tiny village where we stayed overnight in a local house with a Black H'Mong family.  There were tiny cats everywhere that lived around the kitchen fire and slept in the warm ashes - as all the floors were packed earth and the walls bamboo, there wasn't a lot of insulation, and they had the choice spots.  On the second day, we continued onto a village of about 300 Tay people who were living in stilt houses.  This family seemed fascinated at my hand writing and all 8 of them gathered around to stare whilst I made notes in my diary, clucking and giggling... Ah, it's so much fun being a novelty here.... I guess though it's only fair to be on the other side for a short while - the temptation to take photos of these fantastic people must grate after a while.  After all, what's so funny about having blue-hands from spending days dying fabrics, bent backs from years planting rice and people poor enough that they'd sell you the beautiful embroidered pants they were wearing if you pointed to them with any fascination?

I made the mistake of giving one girl a bandaid when she showed me her cut hand... it was a sparkly silver one - and suddenly there was a rush on for band-aids.  "She get one... Why I no get one?"  I was worried that such was the fervour for the shiny band-aid, that they'd cut themselves to get more attention.

The local police also dropped in on us to check if the guides had permits for our stay.  Just when you think that Vietnam is well into the dissolution of the People's Committees and security reports on foreigners being filed by every street corner noodle-seller, I heard our guide tell the local copper that Jordan the American was actually Canadian.   He wouldn't be drawn on it, telling us that it was not our problem, just that he hadn't done the paperwork properly and it was easier this way. But I suspect that the Americans are still treated with caution, especially out in the remote provinces.

Anyway, it was a good laugh, but I don't think my photos of the white mountain mist will do any justice to the beautiful landscapes and I can only hope that I remember what it all looked like when sitting back on my comfortable lounge in Sydney, the mud long since gone from my shoes.

Tags: Mountains

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