Sapa was the best part of my trip to Vietnam, and here are the TOP 5 reasons why living with a hill tribe really was the best and most memorable part of my trip.
Exploring a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse in an amazing culture with the Black H’Mong.
When I travel, the best part of my trip is getting out of my comfort zone and exploring “the new”.
It gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in a culture while having the opportunity to appreciate little things that I take for granted like my comfortable bed, a thermostat (for AC or Heat) and a daily hot shower...WOW...these are really things we can live without.
Here are the TOP 5 reasons why living with a hill tribe really was the best and most memorable part of my trip to Vietnam:
#1 - The H'mong people
I felt so welcomed among the Black H'mong tribe. The people were so kind, open and willing to share anything they had.
Our host was so curious about my life and culture. It was incredible to exchange our life experiences.
When we were done trekking for the day, we just sat around the fire interacting, entertaining and learning from our host family. We simply talked, shared ourselves and appreciated the little things more than ever.
The kids are so curious about us and they pay close attention to our cultural behavior. They want to interact with you and they are extremely happy to share their house and play time.
#2 - Life Lessons - Back to Basics
I really appreciated the opportunity to be close to nature while at the same time being in contact with people who make you feel so welcome.
It was amazing to hike amongst the gorgeous misty mountains. At the end of a long day of hiking and learning everything Bau had to teach us about Sapa and the Black H’mong, we stopped to buy fresh ingredients in a village market.
When we arrived back at the house, Bau (our host) cooked the most delicious meal in the fire pit in the middle of the kitchen floor. While she cooked, I just spent time playing with the kids. I am surrounded by smartphones, tablets, TV’s and computers in my day-to-day life, and it was refreshing to see kids play together without the modern devices we so often cling to in America.
#3 - Unique Memories that will Last a Lifetime
Amazing scenery and learning about the world that the H'mong inhabit, from plants to animals, food and culture, how kids are raised, why they make their clothes, etc. The personal interactions with our guide were like a living classroom of our favorite subject!
Truly being there, living and experiencing such a different life created memories (of moments and people) that are so vivid and deep. This was not something that we saw through a car window, passed by on the street, or watched on TV. The abstract became real and we could see, touch, feel, smell and taste...we were in real life! SO ALIVE, doing what I love!
I really became friends with Bau and her family. It was great to see them learning how to write in English so we can communicate by text message. It fills my heart every time I receive a message or a phone call from my Black H’mong friends. We maintain contact and talk and text frequently. If you thinking about trekking in Sapa, you can check my Sapa trekking itinerary in details.
#4 - Being invited to a village wedding party opened my eyes to the community and culture of the hill tribe.
I was invited to the party and asked to do shots of rice wine, dance and sit and eat with the villagers. I truly felt like honored guests among the tribe, rather than interlopers intruding on a private event.
The wedding in Sapa was one of the most fascinating and intimate cultural experiences of my life and this is another example that when you travel without any plans, and you are not afraid to say “no”, it can turn out even better than expected. Being welcomed by so many people and having the opportunity to share in the special occasion and festivities was unforgettable. I truly felt like an honored guest at their party.
I had to dress in Black H’mong clothes in order to go to the wedding, it is part of the tradition. The handmade black clothes dyed with indigo, were colored with beautiful embroidery, all handmade by Bau.
The food is provided by the bride’s family. They served water buffalo, steamed rice and fresh vegetables to all the guests for 3 straight days. For drinks, all I could see and remember was that they had plenty of rice wine. I mean really, plenty of rice wine.
After dining (and doing rice wine shots) with the gentlemen, I spent time on the “ladies” side of the party, and I have to say that the Black H’mong ladies know how to have fun. I had a blast with them. After some more rice wine shots with the ladies, it was time to move to the dance floor.
I learned that the Black H’Mong love to dance. It doesn’t matter how coordinated, or how much rhythm they have, they just love dancing without any reservations. The guys were drunk and they were enjoying dancing with whoever they could get on the dance floor. I decided to join them and suddenly I remember pulling the H’Mong ladies to join me. The ladies were extremely reserved and shy.
They probably thought I was a lady out of this world, but I insisted that they join us, and finally they did. I can tell you that they enjoyed dancing, at least they seemed very happy. Actually, I think rice wine can make anyone happy.
#5 - Supporting Ethical Traveling
Hiring a guide directly, staying with the family and seeing where your money is going, and helping the community is a great option!
By going direct, the families and community benefit directly from the money you spend, rather than a small portion coming from a tour company. You can also find ways to contribute to the tribes financially or through spreading the work of your experience to attract more ethical travellers to visit this beautiful region and experience the amazing culture.
If you enjoyed this experience, read more on this blog the 7 reasons why I recommend booking your trek in Sapa with a local lady, and what are all the benefits behind the ethical tourism.