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Lunch with the H’mong

May 2, 2011

Yesterday, Matt and I trekked to the Ta Van village on foot with Mao, Mai, Máy, and La (three H’mong tribal women and Mao’s 10 year old sister La).  The walk to the village is about 10km and it takes approximately 2h30 to get there.  This all depends on how fast you walk, how many pictures you stop to capture, and whether or not you take the road or wander off on the quicker but more difficult small goat trails they are able to navigate with ease.  We stuck to the main road and I was thankful especially after seeing how the trails wind and twist along the edge of rice terraces and mountains.  They make all of the path walking look simple and do it in the worst little plastic sandels with no treads what so ever. 

Matt stopped along the way several times to take photographs of the hillside, mountains, and rice terraces.  The clouds were just perfect and the day was shaping up to be sunny with a cool blowing breeze.  Perfect for the long walk.

I walked  with the girls enjoying the views and listening to them giggle and talk amongst themselves.  If I questioned Mao she would tell me what they were talking about but most of the time I was happy to just listen.  La ran about, up and down like a billygoat on the steep cliff ledges picking berries.  These berries were a yellow-orange colour and tasted and looked very much like a small raspberry.  We are guessing they are gooseberries!?!  She collected the small ripe berries in little bowls she fastened out of large leaves and then shared them with everyone.  She is the cutest little girl and we love watching her play with the children, talk with the women, and try to sell her mother’s textiles.  She is always happy and smiling.

We entered Ta Van and made our way through the main part of town, past the schools and little shops.  The main road through their village is a wide rocky path but Mao’s home is up higher on the hill above many rice terraces.  The girls directed us to a narrow, steep trail on the right that would lead to Mao’s home.  It was a muddy, slippery path at about a 50 degree angle that was made from years of their little feet navigating the way.  Bamboo grew on one side while the rice terraces had been created on the other.  Again, like Fansipan I wasn’t sure how I was going to get down but we had come all this way to have a homemade meal with Mao’s family and I wasn’t about to turn around.

At Mao’s home we met her husband, Ching  and their three children (Me, a  5 year old girl, Ba, 3 year old boy, and Ze, 10 month old little girl who Mao carries on her back).  The children were all very dirty from playing in the clay mud but they were happy and well fed.  It seems that among most of the H’mong families the men stay home and raise the children, tend to the house chores, cook the meals, and collect wood.  While the women make and sell their goods or work planting hemp or other crops.

Before, we all got busy making lunch, everyone sat down to enjoy a cold bottle of beer.  Matt had purchased half a dozen bottles in the H’mong village and Mai kindly carried them up…goodness knows I wouldn’t be able to carry them.  After our drinks everyone worked together to prepare the meal.  It was cooked over an open fire in their house. 

Their home is rustic but very welcoming.  Built by 30-40 village men in one day, it is utilitarian with mud floors, a few small tables and short chairs for eating, two beds (one for Mao, her husband, and children and another for Ching’s father).  It is all open with thin bamboo walls but the structure is sound and every joint is mortise and tennon. 

Then we all sat down to the most delicious feast of greens in soup, potatoes, vegetables, bamboo shoots, and RICE.  After we were finished we drank some rice wine.  It is the most powerful tasting liquor I have ever enjoyed and yet it has next to no effect on me…how can something that tastes like whiskey have such a low alcohol content!?!  But, it does make them a little tipsy.  It was a great afternoon and one that we will never forget!

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 5, 2011 4:27 am

    Hi Andrea,
    We (South African family) met you guys in Hanoi as well as Sapa, great to follow your experience in Sapa. You seem to have made the adjustment to the Eastern style and I think you will enjoy the remainder of your time in Vietnam. Enjoy and all the best,
    Elfriede Stocken, Richard and kids Christopher and Jonathan.

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