While in Sapa we stayed one night with an ethnic minority family within the Black Hmong tribe. There are 53 recognised ethnic minorities in Vietnam that account for 14% of the population. The Hmong population is around 900,000 people. There are the Black Hmongs, White Hmongs, Red Hmongs, Green Hmongs and Flower Hmongs. We are staying with a Black Hmong family. They live in the various remote areas such as in the mountains of Sapa.
Many of the women wear their traditional dress as well as young girls, however many decide not to. Our guide Si wears the indigo dyed dress of skirt, apron, leggings and she loved wearing large silver earrings and bracelets. We saw crops of lush green indigo that they use to make the dye for their clothes.
This is our trekking guide who lead us for the 6 hour journey to the family we stayed with overnight. Her name is Si. Si is 18 years old and she’s 4 months pregnant with a little boy. And yes, she managed better than all of us with the steep climbs and descents. Many of the guides had young babies that they carried the whole journey on their backs in a sling and the older women carried a basket full of things they wanted to sell to us at the end.
Women usually get married early between the ages of 18-21. After that it is difficult to find a partner. It’s too old! They changed the age of women marrying from 15 to 18 because the girls were too young. Their education finishes at 15 years old. When a Black Hmong woman marries a man she leaves her village and moves to her husbands village where she lives with her husband and in-laws.
The Hmong family we stayed with had a 2 month old baby and lived with ‘granny’ who was 80 years old. She was a very happy soul and smiled a lot and assisted with cooking and the baby. This is their home. They didn’t speak English. The other Hmong woman with the baby is Ving who is the other guide for the Dutch people staying overnight here as well. Ving is 19 years old and her beautiful baby girl is 4 months old. Her husband is also 19 years old. So young.
The girls loved staying here. They slept upstairs on the floor with a thin mattress and mosquito net all around them. There are no separate rooms. Up stairs is like a barn with a wooden floor. Downstairs is a concrete-like floor and a piece of cloth is drawn across a doorway area to create a small bedroom – one for grandma and one for the young couple and baby. In the kitchen there was a camp fire for cooking and a small area for stacking and washing dishes. No fridge, no benches, no doors or cupboards, no electric devices (except for lights). Everything was cooked in a large wok or a large pot.
By the time we had an amazing traditional dinner sitting outside and rice wine known to the guides as ‘happy water’ it was time for bed. That night there was a massive thunderstorm and boy did it rain. The girls slept through and woke fresh and ready. Grandma had been up for a while stoking the fire and getting some hot water ready for tea and coffee in the kitchen.
Unfortunately Dacey was sick in the morning with a stomach bug. Both ends. We had an hour after breakfast to rest her and get her going to the bathroom as much as possible before we needed to get going. Ahead of us was our last part of the trek to our bus. It was 3 hours. Grandma came up to me with some tiger balm to rub on her chest and tummy and later she gave me a green concoction in a small bottle. It looked like perfume. We passed her remedial medicine offer thinking it best for Dace to have an empty tummy and avoid something we did not know.
On our last trek we passed through other villages and here are some of the things we saw – pigs, tea drying and more.