Monday, January 21, 2013

Hmong Women in Sapa

The hillside village of Sapa, in the Northwest corner of Vietnam, was another highlight of my sidetrips whilst I was volunteering in Cambodia 10 years ago.

I took an overnight train from Hanoi, spent the day there, and returned on the train the following night, which was all my time in the area allowed for. Just a taste of this area of Vietnam, where the border to China was so close.

The characters, interactions and dress of the women of this village captured my heart the most, walking through the main street and seeing school girls walking to school, and then watching the women at work as they tried to sell their homemade wares at the market stalls. These Hmong women were dressed in their distinctive hilltribe colours and fabric patterns, in vivid blues and reds, and carried much of their wares on their back.

After experiencing the heat and humidity of Cambodia for the months before, the cold of Sapa was a shock to me, and I was so ill-prepared. Towards the end of the afternoon, having wandered through the village, the market and the stores along the main street, one of the women of one of the stores took pity on me, and I remember spending time huddled near her pot-bellied heater in her store, trying to keep warm. I wonder what she must have thought of this silly Westerner suffering the cold, as she went about her job. There were cute and shy attempts at interaction through this time before I could return to the station and the train, and back to Hanoi and the humidity.

This post is part of a series marking 10 years since I travelled to Cambodia to work as a volunteer. Hanoi and Sapa was one of my side trips.

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