My itinerary said that I would be trekking to Ta Phin Village to stay with a Dao host family, there to enjoy and ethnic style dinner, and to share in family life by: (e.g.) feeding the animals, cleaning the house or gardening. Mr Ruby in Hanoi had suggested that I take some school supplies to present to the village school.
It did not turn out that way. Of course you know that I failed in the trek, and had an “interesting” ride on a motor bike. The driver took me to a large village, and talked me into paying him an extra five dollars so that he would go back to give Sinh (my guide) a ride
In the large village I was immediately surrounded by five or six women from the Black Hmong tribe, each one being intent to sell me handicrafts, and one offering to find me a local woman to be my wife.
I had been warned to ignore such hawkers in the villages and cities, but boy were they persistent. It was only when I stopped answering questions and gave them the silent treatment that they “ceased and desisted”. (I felt very rude and impolite!).
I was in some kind of shed/cafe and was able to buy a glass of very good green tea as I awaited Sinh.
When he arrived he said that (of course) the motor-cyclist had NOT given him a ride (gullible me – I had been suckered out of five bucks!).
But Sinh had covered the 8 to 10 km of rugged terrain in about 45 minutes, well used as he is to walking and running).
Sinh and I then walked about another mile of dirt road alongside a swift flowing stream to my destination village. It is called SUOI THALI and consists of about 90 houses spread over many miles, i.e. not a compact little village like we might see in Europe.
I was billeted in a house which was also a trekker’s hostel, hence my bed was on the floor. And there was no programme, no welcome, nothing to do. Sinh had brought the food for my lunch which the woman of the house cooked, and which I ate in solitary splendour.
As soon as I “got the picture” I relaxed on a large balcony, and did no more or less than watch village life (and got into bed at about 4:00 p.m. simply to warm up - it was darn chilly).
The house was opposite a small “store” to and from which were a constant stream of villagers who were bring their bags of rice to be husked. The store also sold fruit and vegetables, and meat (probably pork) which was on display in the open air.
The store was also a source of sweets/candies – and had a steady clientele of village children on their way home from school (or work in the fields); and of adults who purchased sugar cane – and then sucked all the sweetness before spitting out the pulp.
Just up the road there was another stream in which people washed their clothes, their selves, and their vegetables. (My house had running water!).
A bit later Sinh and I wandered around the village and inspected the local fish farm.
In due course the man of the house arrived. His name is Luong Van Dat, and he is quite the entrepreneur. He and his wife built their home. He earns his living by building, by hand carving furniture, by cooking, and by tour guiding. His English is excellent, and he is totally aware of the modern world.
I’d asked Sinh if I might eat dinner with the family. That happened and we had a jolly meal, all the while watching T.V. on a huge flat-screen. I had brought some photo’s of my family, and of myself as a child: - they were fascinating for the two young children of the family.
I gave my school supplies to the children, and also to Sinh who has two nephews in elementary school.
Next morning Luong Van Dat cooked me the most delicious crepes with honey and mango for breakfast.
Then Sinh and I walked 4km to catch the mini-bus back to Sa Pa.
It had turned out to be a well worth while village stay.
|Black Hmong woman, where I had green tea.|
|Walking up to the village named SUOI THALI|
|Village store and rice husking business across the track from the house in|
|Another view from the house. Note the environmental degradation as a result of clear cutting on the hills.|
|My bed on the floor (and mosquito net). I slept very well.|
|Another view from the house|
|Sadly enough (for me) there is trash "everywhere" in Vietnam.|
|School girl carrying her younger sibling (at the store)|
|Children carrying rice.|
|Where my lunch and dinner were cooked|
|The house/home in Shoi Thali where I stayed|
|My wonderful breakfast of crepes, mango and honey cooked by Luong Van Dat|
|The host family. L-R - Cousin, Wife and son, Husband and daughter - GREAT FOLKS!|
|And I did trek a bit - some 4 km back to the minibus.|