Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sapa: Homestay with the H'Moung Tribe

We met with our guide 'Sho' in the morning and she had been busy rallying another tourist already. These people work relentlessly! We walked 2 hours through beautiful countryside and amazing views to Sho's home. 

Upon arrival one of the girls asked where the toilet was and Sho just pointed outside, no designated area then!? We decided behind the small, open barn would be best and just as our new friend had disappeared behind the building to take care of business....3 horses came flying down the hill in the direction of the barn followed by a tribal lady shouting them into the barn. We got the fright of our lives but no where near as much as if we had about to be going to the toilet at that time....luckily she had heard the horses and managed to try to escape at the exact same time the horses galloped into the barn and frozen to the spot she was covered in what we decided to call 'mud' but I think we all knew the truth.

After a tasty lunch cooked by Shu and devoured by all the god knows how many people in the house hold we had some free time. The children of the household were all gathered around a small TV watching endless music videos which all sounded and looked the same to us. From what I could tell pants with just one full leg and the other cut short are very desirable in the music business of Vietnamese tribal folk. Now, when I talk of 'children' you must not imagine them as you might children back home, every one of them had a knife from hand size to machete (so the books, pens and sweets we had brought as gifts seemed slightly immature). The machete brandishing boy was also smoking a pipe when we arrived, he was 11 years old! Shu told us the girls in the village get married as young as 12 although most around 16 years old. Her younger daughter just 8 years old chased a buffalo who was minding his own business, grabbed him by the balls and got him to stop and turn around so the boys could have a little go at sitting on him. That's why the women take care of business around here!

After grabbing him by his balls.

Blonde highlights.

This lifestyle was obviously doing some good as we were then introduced to.....'Ma'. The Grandmother of the household, although we were quite confused as to her exact relationship to the others, it was claimed she was the husbands mother but she was 89 years old and he was just 31. We assumed there was some form of lost in translation occurring as they had previously told us they only have children in their late teens-early twenties so surely 58 was pushing it just a bit.

The legend: 'Ma'

'Ma' was an instant hit with us all, her face told a thousand stories. She had seen war and now warmly embraced foreigners in her household. She smoked a huge bong of tobacco and was very happy when the boys tried some, even mocking them for their below par attempts. As I found out later in the night....she could also drink us all under the table and was adamant I was going down with her!

After another delicious meal, the 'happy water' was presented. We had at this point been joined by 3 other guys from Sweden (who only paid $10 each for the same tour, although we didn't mind too much as the money was clearly well earned and needed). We were quickly introduced to the most important H'moung word 'HOW' which means 'drink' , the 'HOW's were coming fast and the happy water was fast disappearing. I tried to sip at my cup and avoid shooting every one but 'Ma' was sitting right next to me and checking my spirit level the second it left my legs then tapping my side and telling me 'HOW HOW'...How will I survive tomorrow was all I could think. The tribal women were also loving the happy water and the whole atmosphere was so friendly and great!
Happy Water Time

Sho and one of the younger tribe ladies babies.

The Swedish guys quite intoxicated produced their Ipod and speakers which sent the women into a confused frenzy of excitement-TECHNOLOGY! We decided to call it a night as the children had made our beds and we thought we were keeping them up. The boys and tribal woman however partied on with the happy water for another hour or so. These people get up at 3am usually but slept in till the luxuries hour of 4am, thanks to the happy water!

The next day we had yet another excellent meal and departed from Shu's household and headed through the lovely surrounds to another village where we took motorbikes back to Sapa.

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