Hill People – Sapa

The second day of our Sapa tour started with a pretty hefty shower which was actually welcomed by both of us as we had the good fortune of buying raincoats the night before just as a precaution which was in retrospect a fantastic move. Not to mention that the coats are pretty spot-on North Face knock offs although Nicole disagrees that they are fake but for $25, they keep us dry.

Anyways, so we started the day with breakfast and then met with our guide to begin the trek through the valley of rice fields and the hill tribe of Tanvan.

The walk was really nice in the wet as it was cooler and in a way it felt more authentic among all the fog and dirt paths that wind their way in and out of the valley decorated with small homes, farms, and the occasional water buffalo. The valley itself, is a mass of rolling rice fields that jump up and down the entire vibrant green landscape that is often blanketed with clouds that sets off the surreal feel of the location.

As is not uncommon, we attracted some local followers that lent us a hand through some of the more tricky spots on the trek. Nicole had a young girl with her the entire way that even waited for us to eat lunch and then continued along with us the rest of the way. The walk took us through some rather difficult and slippery terrain that had us relying heavily on the superhuman strength of our local help to keep up from spilling down the countryside. On one particular stretch we came across a few young boys that wanted nothing less than to see us face down in the dirt and so as we walked to an obvious “god I hope they fall” chant, we smiled and took each step in stride as our shoes were totally immersed in the mud.  Now the thing is, Nicole and I both knew that although sweet of the locals to help us out, there are certainly “no free lunches” as they say in Vietnam and when we reached the end of the trail, the women patiently awaited a reward which although a semi smudge on the fantastic walk, I can still understand and accept as it is something that goes on daily.

Just a personal thought on the matter. As we travel through some of the areas that have been takin over as tourist destinations, both Nicole and I can’t help but feel saddened by the idea that beautiful tribes people that were at one time very removed from the grip of capitalism have been poisoned in a way. From the moment you arrive (and they know you have arrived), the young and old tribes women circle your van and try and sell you their crafts with a persistence that spoils the encounter. As I mentioned before, it’s an understandable occurrence especially as the government is somewhat to blame for the allowance of tourism to spread into certain areas and just the idea of Nicole and I being there perpetuates the cycle. I just hope that these people can still find a way to hold on to the history and beliefs that their society has been built upon without totally handing it over to the tourists.

Ok, so back to it. After a final decent through some thick bamboo that doubled as support, our hike ended at about 4 which gave us time to pick up some dinner and then bus it back to the train station for our 8 hour overnight cruise back to Hanoi in time to make our 8am connection to our Halong Bay trip.

Something very retro about an overnight sleeper in my opinion but they make sense as they’ve given us our lodging and transport all in one steel rig on rails!

Thanks for reading, Halong Bay is next!!


  1. I really enjoyed reading your article. You are a wonderful writer. I have been to Vietnam but mostly to Saigon where my brother lives. I hope to visit Sapa, Hanoi and other lovely parts of Vietnam soon.


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