O’er Yonder in Northern ‘Nam

I had a pretty cool experience in my final days of Vietnam. Having just descended a 3,140 m peak (the highest in Indochina) on a 2 day trek in the rain, I went for a stroll the next morning to see if I could find my way to a lowland village near Sapa in North Vietnam. I was quickly joined by 3 women of the local H’mong tribe who offered to walk the 10k with me to their village where I could spend the night.

Sa, Tu and Tu (the 2 Tu's have different intonations)

Sa, Tu & Tu (the 2 Tu's have different intonations)

Trekking with Sa, Tu and Tu through rice fields to the Ta Van village

Trekking with Sa, Tu and Tu through rice fields to the Ta Van village. I was kind of reminded of Rory Stewart, a British historian who walked across Afghanistan in The Places in Between. Except that I was with gentle H'mong tribeswomen instead of AK-47 wielding Muslims. And I was at an altitude of 1600 m instead of 5000.

The H'Mong tribal dress is absolutely fabulous, and by far my favorite ethnic-minority-tribe style I have seen on my travels thus far. I purchased a few items off a woman's back for my own wardrobe, or perhaps just for inspiration!

The H'Mong tribal dress is absolutely fabulous, and by far my favorite ethnic-minority-tribe style I have seen on my travels thus far. I purchased a few items off a woman's back for my own wardrobe, or perhaps just for inspiration!

I arrived in the Ta Van village in the early afternoon, leaving ample time in the remains of the day to reflect on the past months, now being the halfway point into my travels. I think what I have been most amazed by during my trip is universal human kindness and each individual’s code of ethics and system of trust. Everywhere I have been, from cosmopolitan cities to rural villages, I have gotten by and survived through giving and sharing and from the giving and sharing of others. For some reason it makes me think of Javier Bardem’s character in No Country for Old Men. Maybe you get what I mean. The other thing I have found surprisingly universal is Pringles chips.

Bird's eye view of the lowland villages

Bird's eye view of the lowland villages

cecilia 018So you see, things have been going pretty swimmingly, despite the tumultuous misadventures of late- I fell off another motorbike with my friend Peter at the wheel when we hit 2 potholes riding up a hill in the rain- yes, I am a super banged up/bruised chica right now. I swear on Ho Chi Minh’s grave I am done with motorbikes, especially since I just read that 2 British travelers killed themselves on a moto in Thailand. The accident left me feeling kind of depressed for some reason, and for me, there’s no better way to get over depression than to…climb a mountain! I also had the luxury of doing it with some friends from Uni who were in the area for a few weeks. Peter and Joe (whom I’ve known since freshman year of college) were eager to do something physical having had desk jobs in big cities for the past 4 years. My, how time flies!

As a challenge, Mt. Fansipan was pretty tame and at times lame, but the lush Fern Gully/Jurassic Park scenery was worthwhile and it was really nice to experience with old friends as opposed to strangers or by myself.

bamboo rainforests on Mt. Fansipan (dubbed Fancy Pants by Joe)

bamboo rainforests on Mt. Fansipan (dubbed Fancy Pants by Joe)

Our local porters taking a rest. Yes, we had porters. I'm not used to having someone else carry my sleeping bag and my food, and I felt like I was cheating. But at least I also felt like I was supporting local villagers.

Our local porters taking a rest. Yes, we had porters. I'm not used to having someone else carry my sleeping bag and my food, and I felt like I was cheating. But at least I also felt like I was supporting local villagers.

Our porters prepare our feast

Our porters prepare our feast

We found this guy at the bamboo-constructed Base Camp. I still don't really get who he is.

We found this guy at the bamboo-constructed Base Camp. I still don't really get who he is.

cecilia 016

Summit-ing Fansipan. That's China in the background. Too bad it was too foggy to see anything.

Summit-ing Fansipan. That's China in the background. Too bad it was too foggy to see anything.

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~ by ceciliabien on June 2, 2009.

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