Day 07 - Monday, April 16, 2012 - Visit Hill Tribe Villages; Meet People in Native Costume; Interact
After a great night’s sleep, we woke up at 6:00 to a heavy fog and the temperature was 65°. The humidity was 94%.
Our hotel is located high above the city so we have distant views of the spacious French villas, small simple homes, and the construction that is going on right below our hotel.
We went to the dining room for a lovely buffet breakfast. Joanne and Duane gave us a suggestion to try the specialty omelets – very delicious!
There was plenty of time for a walk around the neighborhood. We saw many people working in their gardens and preparing for the day.
Cuong met us in the lobby at 9:00 for our hike and to visit several villages in the surrounding hillsides. Our drive took us along the Fanxipan Ridge, the highest mountains in Vietnam.
Mr. Lap dropped us off by the highway at the entrance to a beautiful valley and we began our 2.5 mile trek into the Lao Chai villages. The air was clear with a nice cool breeze.
This area has been controlled by the Japanese, French, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Most recently, in 1979, the town was ravaged by the Chinese and has been restored by the Vietnamese.
The minute we got out of the van, we each had two young women walking with us, hoping we would buy their handicrafts and silver jewelry. We stopped frequently to talk with the people and to take photos of them and their children.
At one of the villages we had an opportunity to visit a kindergarten. The children were just having lunch so they were occupied with eating and not too interested in meeting American tourists.
We saw terrace after terrace flooded for the production of rice. Corn for the pigs is also grown, but interestingly not for human consumption. We also saw many green vegetables grown in small plots fenced with bamboo.
The villagers raise chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, and water buffalo, and occasionally horses. There are also many dogs in these communities.
Rumor has it that this area is also known for opium production but we were told the Vietnamese government is working to eliminate the drug trade in the country.
An interesting tradition is that marriages are arranged very early. Young girls marry at 14 or 15 and by 16 they have one or more children. I talked to a woman who was 19 and had four children already; 4 years, 3 years, 15 months, and a 3 month old baby.
The villages are profiting from tourism and the sale of handicrafts, particularly jewelry and embroidery. We can’t help but wonder how our presence is influencing their lives.
After our two hour hike, Lap met us and we drove back to the hotel. Instead of having lunch we worked on the morning's photos and relaxed.
At 2:00 Cuong and Lap came back to pick us up for a sky ride along the Fanxipan Mountain Ridge and the highest paved road in Vietnam to Cong Troi or Heaven’s Gate.
At the pinnacle, 6532 feet, we stopped for panoramic photos. The temperature was a pleasant 71°, the humidity was only 45%, and the wind was gusting at 31 mph.
We drove back to the city, said good-bye to our driver and set off on foot for a walk through an Asian medicine market. Vendors were selling herbs, plants, animal parts, and other “critters” used for potions and treatments.
Our hike took us to the gate of the Fanxipan Observatory and Orchid Garden. We climbed the rock steps that were very steep.
Only the fittest made it to the top. Duane decided to go back and explore the markets; Gennie stayed in the Orchid Garden while Vic, Joanne, and Cuong kept going.
It was 4:30 when we all met back at the bottom. We said good-bye to Cuong, found an ATM machine, and walked back to the hotel. Gennie picked up the laundry and we went up to our room.
As we recounted the day, the sun went down, and the temperature began to drop. At 6:30 we left the hotel in search of a place to eat dinner.
After a day filled with the Myths and Mountains we had come to Vietnam to see, we were very happy to have a shower and a clean bed.
Accommodations: Victoria Sapa Hotel - - - Meal: B
Please see our Trip Evaluation -- Click Here -- A Complete Review of Myths and Mountains -- From Vietnam to China: Ethnic People of the Border -- Vietnam with Le Van Cuong
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You are having the opportunity to see such an interesting culture. I would have loved to have seen the kindergarten!