The group split up for the adventures in Sapa. Kenzie, Emily M, Jeremy, and I (Emily L) chose to go trekking into Thanh Phu Village for an overnight hometay. Our Guide, Mi, was excellent, and very friendly. After a half hour jeep ride, we started our trek... straight downhill. The loose gravel and dirt made it very difficult to walk upright, and I spent much of my time sliding down on my backside, unfortunately.
This trek was much different from the others we've been on thus far, because it was out in the open instead of through the jungle... and if you've ever been to Vietnam, you must know how hot it gets! We trekked for a good 5 hours in the middle of the day, under the blistering sun. The trek itself was challanging, but do-able, except for the intense heat, which made it twice as hard! But it was fun! We had a good time talking with the guide, and learning about her people and her village. She told us about how she was forced to marry someone she didn't like at age 15. A year after her marriage, she still didn't like her husband, so her mother gave her some "magic rice" (she put a spell on it to make her love him) and they've been happy ever since! Very different worlds we come from.
She was asking where we were from, and we took turns telling her, Utah, New York, and Maine in the United States. She asked how long it took us to get to each other's villages, and was very confused and shocked when we explained that it takes days driving to get to each other's "villages."
We got to our homestay, and were surprised at what we found. The family we stayed with had multiple televisions, a three level bamboo house, and a flushing toilt (a squatter, but hooked to a pipe with a wooden handle to turn to let water run through.) I guess I expected it to be more like the other villages we've stayed in. I'm always surprised at how different each village is from each other. The family was very welcoming, and excited to have us stay.
We wandered into the village, where there were smaller, more simple houses, no running water, and no TVs. We stumbled upon some kids playing what we assumed to be pirates, or something of that sort, running around with bamboo swords and pails full of who knows what. They had fun trailing us through the village, stopping to see what we were up to before running off again. I held up my camera and raised my eyebrows to take a picture. To my delight, they threw up their peace signs, giggled, then ran off.
We were the only "white" people in the village, other than one couple we passed. The villagers all waved and smiled, some pointing to our skin and laughing mumbling what i assumed to be the word for "white" or "pale." That's my favorite part about the villages... when there are no other tourists around, and you really get a feel for how these people live. One of the highlights of the trip, for sure. We broke out the bubbles for the kid's playing near our homestay, and they went nuts! Kids love bubbles... almost as much as getting thier pictures taken! We had fun playing with the kids, and interacting with the homestay family.
Dinner was an event to remember. I have never eaten so much food! They made sure we always had rice in our bowl, and practically forced us to eat more. Mi laughed at me when I said I had eaten too much and was full, and pushed more rice my way. We had a feast of vegetables, chicken, rice, and a special treat of pig hooves for the New Year. Accompanied, of course was the rice wine... man do they love their rice wine.
We enteratined them as they watched us play an intense game of cards. They laughed when we laughed, and had a great time. We all slept soundly in our mosquito nets after our day of trekking. Breakfast was just as grand as dinner... I was stuffed to the brim! After our farewells, we said goodbye to our family, and began our trek in the hot sun. It was pretty difficult after eating so much for breakfast, and poor Emily's knee was not working well after the downhill the day before. Jeremy and Emily jumped on a motorbike for the last half of the trek, while Kenzie and I trudged on.
For every down, there must be an up... and up it was. We climbed the dry rice paddies and hills under the hot sun...I almost didn't make it. Thanks kenz for pushing me through that one! We reached the top drenched in sweat, and extremely tired, but we made it! We met up with Jeremy and Emily for lunch before our exciting jeep ride back to the Cat Cat hotel. What an adventure!