As a great Christmas Eve present to us, the clouds parted ways and the sun came out of hiding. Perfect timing too, because today we were going on a hike through some of the minority villages in the countryside surrounding Sapa. No need to join a tour: it’s a straightforward walk (albeit a long one) and tiny villages and sweeping vistas are everywhere. Just grab one of the free maps around!
As soon as we started to walk we were followed by ethnic minority ladies trying to sell us goods. We ignored them politely, but two of them just started to follow us. They were going home, they said; they just happened to be walking that way. While there is only the one road, it quickly became obvious that our new friends were indeed “guiding” us along, and most likely expecting a reward at the end of the hike.
They were very kind ladies, so we didn’t mind. They kept pointing out certain things out of the surroundings, like how to get indigo dye out of indigo plants and how to make strings out of hemp. They also gave us hemp seeds and tried to tell us to take them home and give them to our friends and families (“very healthy! good for you!”). Explaining why it was a bad idea would have been quite the challenge, so I just shoved them in my pocket. Out of bamboo they made us horses and out of ferns, hearts and a crown (for me). In slippery, muddy areas they even held me to make sure that I didn’t slip. Like I said, they were sweet ladies!
After about 15 KM we got pretty tired, and knew that we had to walk back as well. We parted ways with our guides after purchasing a few souvenirs, and walked our way back into town along the main road. By the time we got back we were dead tired, but it had been so incredibly worth it.
Not your typical way to spend Christmas Eve, don’t you think?