An open letter: Sapa

Dear Mama,

I find myself in yet another magical place. Up in the hills of Northern Vietnam there are countless beautiful, misty villages.

I spent a day each in Sapa and Bac Ha, and encountered quite a few minority Hmong villagers, each with their own beautiful dress, dialect of Vietnamese and lifestyle. I met mothers and grandfathers, cousins and babies. All sweet, some outgoing and some cheeky.

In Bac Ha I was eagerly given a shot of the homemade corn hooch they favor, at approximately 8:30am. Who am I to refuse? Each family has their own recipe, but rest assured its about 90 proof. Tasted great, in fact. Clear but with the smoky flavor, a palate towards whiskey rather than vodka. Whiskey just so happens to be my poison of choice (not that I drink very often, Mama...)

As with Laos, I am repeatedly rendered speechless by the handwoven textiles in Vietnam. The Hmong people really have a way with color theory and exquisite detail. I definitely think I gravitate towards the work of the Flower Hmong. Their work is similar to the textiles I oohed about in Luang Prabang. I tried not to go overboard buying handmade memories, but admittedly I shipped a box home.

This city princess got herself into the mud again. My day of trekking in Sapa began the morning after an overnight rain, so of course I found myself without the proper footwear to hike with. Undeterred, I enlisted a Black Hmong woman named Xay to hold my hand down the steep bits, and happily bought a bag from her at the end of the journey. Along the way she told me all about her life and her children, and had many questions for me about the USA. Her smile was genuine and she was steady as a rock in her own professional hiking shoes (thin plastic flipflops!?) and her command of English was impressive. I'm sending you the bag I bought from her, with a photo of her inside it.

So many more photos to come from Vietnam! The trip wraps up soon, and though I'm attached as hell to Southeast Asia, it will be nice to be in my own (soft!) bed.