What You Will Find in This Post
POST 7 – 30 DAYS IN VIETNAM
The Women of Vietnam Rule Sapa
Fighting our way from the back row, hunched over, clutching luggage, nostrils blocked against wafting sick smells, we exited the overheated bus into the cold wet pre-dawn cloud of Sapa.
The Bus Driver’s Wife.
Bus driver’s wives, are particularly bossy women of Vietnam who take no prisoners. They decide how much each passenger pays and they don’t budge once the fare is decided. When we dared suggest to our Bus Driver’s Wife that we were not being dropped at the correct Sapa hostel, she abruptly declared “Yes, right place!”.
With that, we alighted, the door slammed shut and the bus disappeared Harry Potter like, into a blanket of cloud.
It was not our hostel.
In Vietnam no-one messes with a Bus Driver’s Wife.
The Hostel Owner’s Wife.
Shrugging into our jackets, and shouldering packs, we followed the map from our guidebook, downhill into the dark. Surprisingly at this pre-dawn hour, the hostel door opened promptly to our knocks.
Enter the smiling hostel owner’s wife. Rubbing her hands together and hopping from foot to foot to keep warm, she booked us in and shuffled up the stairs, down the corridors and along the verandahs, leading us to our rooms.
She had turned up the electric blankets to warm our beds and made the shower water hot and we thankfully jumped beneath the covers and dozed off.
In the coming days the hostel owner’s wife cooked omelettes, booked treks and tours, arranged laundry and even managed to find time to sit with Grandma and her children to watch television in the foyer.
The hostel owner’s wife runs the hostel with aplomb.
The Trekking Guide.
Traditional Hmong women wear exotic indigo-dyed and embroidered outfits; our trekking guide however dressed western style in jeans, hoodie, joggers and toted a mobile phone.
The women of Vietnam love asking or answering personal questions, and many life details were exchanged on our trek. Living as an independent modern woman in Sapa town during the week, our guide returned to her family and child in Ta Van village on weekends. In a break with local tradition she chose her husband and was reportedly happy with her choice. Jokingly she hoped she would feel the same in thirty years time.
Although barely reaching my not very high shoulder, she commanded respect. When not trekking into the valleys she led multi-day climbs to the summit of Fansipan Mountain, the highest mountain in Vietnam.
The women of Vietnam, rule the mountains of Sapa.
The Black Hmong women of Vietnam are hard working entrepreneurs.
Several Hmong women accompanied us on a day trek. When questioned, our guide suggested they were trekking with us because they were friends from her village. Dressed traditionally, with babies strapped snugly on their backs, they smiled and chatted as if on a family picnic, which in effect they were.
We squirrelled food from our picnic lunch, to their babies who, released from their mothers were played with, nursed and enjoyed by all. At the end of the trek their true presence became obvious when they produced embroidery and morphed into shrewd salespeople, negotiating in perfect self-taught English.
Their ability to communicate with and sell to tourists provides the majority of their family’s income.
The women of Vietnam rule their little kingdom of Sapa in the clouds.
Read more posts from a One Month in Vietnam and Asia posts here.
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Oh MY Gosh…how amazing are those ladies in Sapa ! Walking with babies strapped to their backs, and then able to communicate a deal to sell their cushion covers! I love the vibrant colours of their material that is used to strap their babies – gorgeous! Are they home made (like a baby sling?)
Yes they are home made slings. The baby is strapped on with the legs bent until one year of age, the straight after that. They carry them on their back until they finish “mummy milk” as they call it (usually around 2 years of age).
What a fascinating area. I love your photo of the mother and baby in their colourful dress. It’s interesting that the women rule here!
Yes Jenny, The women have their fingers in many pies, and certainly bring in the money. I never saw the men and women interact so I do not know if they rule in the relationship arena. Maybe not!