Monika, is a name, Vietnamese can pronounce well and there it was ! It was a bit chaotic with hundreds of sleepy travelers disembarking, scouting out their name and tour groups with very little English spoken anywhere. Off we went, of course with the wrong tour group, yet the mistake was immediately rectified. So on to the right bus! This would take us along winding roads up the mountain about 3000 meters in still darkness. One has to shed that western attitude of safety and precision timing and let go! Vietnamese people will not let you down, every thing is -same same yet different. So putting your trust in them will never be disappointing.
The town of Sapa reminded me of a small town in the Austrian alps, same same but different. We were greeted by these beautiful woman with babies on their back in their amazing native clothing, which they die and fabricate themselves. The woman of Sapa are incredibly strong and work continuously providing for their family. Yes, they would like you to buy their goods and trinkets, yet they establish a relationship with you before the big kill. Keep in mind the average monthly income is about $ 100 with no days off and trekking each day uphill …both ways !
My, our 28 year old female guide, came to get us with an incredible smile and bubbling enthusiasm. She informed us about our 15 km trekking experience and agenda for the day. She was, H’mong, one of five minority groups in the area and her English was lovely and her sense of humor was immediately evident. She had learned English from the tourists and was very proud of it. The trekk brought us through, amazing rice terraces. We learned about indigo and how it is used to dye cloth, how they harvest hemp and create their clothing, how soya is threshed and dried. We saw how nothing goes to waste and everything has a purpose in their food chain supply for themselves and their animals.
We had an incredible evening at a Homestay with 13 other nationalities and like minded people. An evening that I will forever cherish. The meal that they provided for us was simple amazing, fresh and extraordinary.
The next morning we got introduced to the-torrential rains of Vietnam.
Since we were only 4 in our group we got to choose between trekking the long way to a waterfall or the shortcut to Sapa, with a visit to My’s home. It didn’t take us long to decide for the later! Trekking and wadding in knee deep water in this torrential-downpour made me feel so incredibly alive and grateful. What an experience!
Completely drenched to the bones we arrived at her home, which was nothing more than a 2 room hut with with mud floors and rice sacks all around. I was transported back to the Middle Ages. One lightbulb hung on a nail ( therefore the darkness of these pictures ) the fire was on and her husband greeted us with a baby in his arms.. We could not communicate with him at all, yet he smiled and started to singe some tea leaves on the open fire which were than placed into the kettle. Tea for the visitors.
Within minutes another pot of water was put on with lemongrass and boiled up.
My in her kitchen which is the mud floor ( no granite counters here ) started to chop cabbage, garlic, onion and tomatoes up . They were placed into the frying pan and onto the fire pit. I saw her getting some very precious eggs from some hidden alcove which she cracked open and placed into the soup pot. The smell was incredibly appetizing.
We were invited to the table and sat on tiny little chairs where she served us the most incredible tasting soup I have ever had in my life.
We were wet and hungry and full of awe of this family’s hospitality.
I could feel the tears on my cheeks and appreciated the darkness all around me.
Food for Love lit my heart.