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Sapa - Christmas Day 2012

VIETNAM | Sunday, 20 January 2013 | Views [1465]

Normally, I write the blog and Matt writes the diary, that's the deal we have!  But this is going to be Matt's page today, as I was poorly on Christmas day. Yes, it was self inflicted, with the help of the hotel owner, who kept plying me with homemade rice and apple wines, that, and the Bailey's hot chocolate for a nightcap!

So, Matt, Lucy & Rhain's Christmas Day:-

Start the day by opening more presents from home (Jane, Al & Gail all sent things out, with the girls). Netty still to poorly to be out all day.  I really don't want to leave her, especially on Christmas day, but she doesn't want me to miss out.

We meet June (made up name we think!), in the square at 10 a.m.and set out to her village.  A lot  of people are doing the same thing with local women, so June takes us a different way to escape the tourist's.  Another young local girl has joined our trip.  She is carrying her small baby on her back in the traditional shawl-like papoose.  It is very, very misty and we have no amazing views, but the walk in the country side and the company are great.

Our 'guide', June, is 33 years old, has had no education and can not read or write.  She speaks English very well though.  She has learned it just from listening and talking to tourists in town.

She and her friend wear their traditional dress still, which consists of black knee length shorts with a black apron style dress, of the same length over the shorts. The short sleeve top is embroidered with bright red and yellow cross-stitch, very similar to that of the South American Hill Tribes that we saw.  It is all homemade.  They dye their own material using the Indigo plant, thus the name 'Black Hmong' tribe.

We soon turn off the road on to a rough slippery and often very steep track, that winds it's way across the hills  towards Junes house.  As we go, she points out the indigo plants that they use for dying their fabrics and other plants of interest.  It's a good 2 hour walk to her village and the family home is quite is shock.

It is a large wooden shed with a dirt (soil) floor.  There are big gaps between the wooden boards and the cooking is all done on an open fire-pit at one end.  11 people live in this small space.   It has 3 bedrooms, a centre dining area with a small table and squat little bench seats.  There is no toilet and their water supply constantly runs through a concrete holding tank outside.  This is where the food is washed and prepared on a concrete slab, with water constantly running across it. (It was surprisingly clean).

Lunch took a long time to prepare and cook, so we talked to some of the members of the family.  Junes father was very drunk, as he had been out all night, drinking rice wine with his mates! He went to bed after a few puffs on his bamboo pipe.  Junes sister-in-law helped with the cooking, while keeping her 3 young children amused.  The dogs and puppies trotted in occasionally looking for food scraps.  The pigs and chickens milled around the small muddy yard outside the front door and Junes young sister (11) made us horses from thin green bamboo (See photo's).

The (Christmas) lunch was served - pork, watercress, onions, tomatoes, tofu, rice and plenty of it! We all ate well and it was very tasty.  Time to say our goodbyes to the family and head down into the bottom of the valley, but before we do, it's time for the sale pitch! Out comes all sorts of handmade material based crafts with fancy stitching and having seen what a hard existence they have, it would be very mean not to buy something from them and besides, it was really nice stuff.  I was only sorry that we couldn't have bought more.

It takes 1 and a half hours to walk back through the villages in the valley, with June pointing out different crafts and trades as we went.  We were met by Junes younger brother and two friends on motor bikes, who rode us back to Sapa 15 minutes away (a first for Lucy & Rhian).  I gave my 'bike taxi' driver my gloves, as he looked frozen.  He was very grateful.

Netty has recovered enough to go out for supper, so we head for 'Little Italy' for our evening meal. We fill her in on our day out.  It will be a life time memory and one that cost us $10 each! Not much to us, but an enormous amount to these poor families.


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