This country surprises magical landscapes.
When you arrive in Sapa in Vietnam and get off the bus near the main square of the city, you are immediately under siege. The bus is immediately surrounded by a short, women in colorful traditional dress, choose a pair of tourists and with them having a casual conversation, not forgetting to follow all the rules of marketing.
“Good morning! How was your trip? How do you like Vietnam? You for the first time in Sapa? If you want, I can show you the village and the rice fields.” I swear, Carnegie would be very pleased with these young women.
We are categorically unable to solve any issues immediately after the arrival anywhere, and even early in the morning, so normally dismiss any potentially useful offers. But a girl named Mi, talk to us, we liked his open smile and manners, and we took her phone number.
Photography and text by Olga Shelkunova
1. Explore the mountain villages around Sapa. For example, to contact the travel Agency to buy a tour on your desired number of days, and you along with a group of people like you tourists will take a comfortable bus to the place you are interested. The guide will lead you on picturesque trails among rice terraces, to tell something about rice, and the Hmong, ZAO, and to spend the night you will be in one of homstead in the style of a local house, and the key word here is “stylized”.
And you can accept the invitation of one of the women, every morning greeting the newly arrived tourists at the bus stop, and the rest of the time on duty at the Church on the main square. She will be your guide and will not get lost, will invite to your house where you can if you want to stay for a night or two, and will acquaint you with my family.
2. Needless to say which option we chose? Yes, of course, nothing prevents to roam these places alone, moreover, is the best option, and if we had a tent or a little more confidence that we can find in the wilderness a lodging for the night, we would have done. But then we still didn’t know how usual in these parts and an invitation to visit. Well, the next time will be smarter.
A woman named Mi on the appointed day, was busy with other work so our conductor until the evening was her sister. We met at Church and went out of the city. For a long time we walked through a wooded area, slowly up the hill. At some point we came out into the open, and saw on one side of Sapa at a glance, on the other, riddled with sinuous lines, the slopes and valleys with scattered grey huts. The scale of the work impressed.
3. We had to come down a little closer to this whole unreal beauty.
4. Perhaps the main argument against the tracks with conductors is in the fact that it was not the fact that they will spend you the optimum way. We have seen this three times, and one of the most exciting types would have passed by us (or rather we — pass them), if not the card in the phone.
6. We had to spend the rest of the evening in this village whose names I do not remember. We met with the conductor E, and she showed us a house where we were to spend two nights. Flimsy, half-wooden, half-bamboo hut under a slate roof and an earthen floor and a hearth in the center.
No dirt floor or plush blankets with the spread pattern did not cause me any shock or thoughts like “am, and so people live, o God, what about IKEA”. I think the person needs not so much to live a decent life and be happy. And I can well imagine myself living in the same cabin in the mountains. Yes, even without the Internet (though the Internet in this village there!).
7. I could think of was more. I tried to imagine what it’s like to live when there is no choice how to live your life. And it’s not that these people are poor by the standards of the big world. What it’s like to live on the basis of faith and superstition, and having in mind a clear picture of “how to”? What kind of relationship possible between people associated with each other is not a choice but a reality? I often ask this question.
9. Frankly, I’m not touching children. And traveling there is no desire to nufotografuoti a bunch of snotty and not very children and sign these pictures “Oh, those wonderful kids with a clean and pure soul.” But the girl in the picture below, a niece of Mi, won my sympathy.
10. The rest of the evening before dark we walked through the village, watched the low sun gilded in bright green shoots of rice, reflected in the mirrors, in the flooded terraces and glistens like wet fertile soil. We opened all the new species, generously spiced with the magic of the sunset rays, and more and more I admired the hard work of local young people and their ability to transform nature, without crippling it.
13. It seems to me when I seriously want to find the way to enlightenment, you will need to go to some trendy Vipassana mysterious spiritual practices and meditation and other nicely named things, and to Sapa. You will need to ask to live to the owners of the house that in the next photo, and every morning to go tyapa terrace, pull the weeds, and with them bad thoughts out of my head.
17. In the evening, when finally it got dark and we were sitting on little plastic taburetka around the fire, had dinner with rice and vegetables, went in the house high-spirited woman with a sparkle in his eyes, something reminded me of one of my distant relative. She slyly glanced at us about something talked to Me, and that translated to us that this sister, her husband, and that she is happy water and if we want can try. Happy water is a rice brew. When presented with another opportunity to grab a drink with, Hmong in the Vietnamese wilderness? Always say “Yes” and all that.
As I expected, happy water was a rare tangle-legs, so we, having drunk a SIP, thanked him and said that enough is enough. I will never forget the disappointment in the eyes of our newfound subutility.
18. This village of people Zhao. The conductor could not explain, than ZAO is fundamentally different from the Hmong except for clothes and hairstyle, only with a dreamy envy in his voice said that women, ZAO less work, so they have white skin, but we are not experts in matters of complexion, therefore are unable to assess the veracity of her words.
20. Here we learned again that guide helps those who help themselves. Before us opened a completely fantastic view of the slopes, neatly lined wavy lines prepared for planting of the rice terraces. All past what we were before, it was stunningly beautiful, but these types of was breathtaking with a new force. It would be an unforgivable mistake to turn back before he came here.
24. Mi is a beautiful girl of twenty-three years. According to her, she, like other women, enticing tourists on trips, learned to speak English, communicating with foreigners. It’s hard to believe, because even though she has a fairly limited vocabulary, she speaks pretty well.
Mi gets up at five in the morning to prepare Breakfast for herself and her husband, who then goes to work in the rice terraces, then she either goes to the city to find foreign visitors, or is also sent to the terraces. In winter, Mi, like the other women of the Hmong and ZAO, sews clothes for the whole family.
Her husband had seemed to us quiet and unassuming, and the relationship between them is good. But like everything in fact, we certainly do not know.
26. When you have in the garden your own slice of heaven.
30. On the morning of our last day in the mountains I, discarding shame and doubt, asked Mi if I plant some rice. Mi, not in the least surprised, said why not, of course, possible.
Women are engaged in planting rice, learning about my desire, extremely amused, but I had no objection to amuse them. Taking off shoes and roll up our Trouser legs as high as possible, I stepped from the dense edge of the terrace in its viscous soft dirt, feeling as it moves between your toes with every step. It was a pleasant half-forgotten feeling comes from childhood.
To plant rice, the case seems simple enough, but requires some skill. While I’m enjoying my ride and thinking pretentious thoughts about the importance of each grain of rice in the Universe (all under an imaginary sublime music), do solemnly stuck Rostock for Rostock in the blessed mucky, three women managed to plant around me with a pic from almost all sides, leaving only a narrow track for retreat, and kept giving me quizzical looks. But I was not offended — rich white tourist, who decided five minutes to eat the peasant’s share, it’s really funny.
32. We were headed in the direction of Sapa, and our path lay straight through the village of Lao Chai, perhaps the most popular with tourists. The village is really beautiful, but to appreciate it fully, again we had to persevere. Sister Mi, guided by either laziness, or even thoughts, just wanted to pass through the village by the shortest route. But we are figuring where the most beautiful places that we saw on the first day with altitude, strongly said that we’ll go over there.
33. With the conductor we already paid, so told our conductor, that it does not necessarily go with us. We understand where we are, nothing we won’t, and she can go and do more enjoyable or useful things. But apparently it’s not just about the money, because the girl refused to leave us half way.
34. And again we found that we not show some persistence, we would have lost a lot. It would seem that we have a lot to look and this much was delightfully fine, but terraces to Lao Chai at the moment when we saw them, overshadowed everything we saw in the previous few days. Perfection of lines, colors and shapes. The harmony created by the hoe and plow.
39. That’s what I understand, early development.
40. Batch of seedlings.
41. Anti-aging treatments after a hard day.
42. Sapa remained in the memory of one of the brightest impressions from all our seven-month journey. Admiring her beauty, I thought, does something this beauty for the people who made it? Or all, than they were guided, is the most efficient use of any available surface for a good harvest, so as not to die of hunger? And some more of the magic that created the whimsical inspiration of the artist, or the one that was born by itself,being nothing more than a side effect of the heavy monotonous work?
And again and again tried to imagine what it’s like to live, knowing that you’ll never leave and life will cultivate rice.
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