day one hundred and thirty-five: february 11, 2016:

This morning, we met our local guide for the day, San May. She was from one of the local minority groups, the Red DZao. The women of the Red DZao are easy to recognize based on their red head scarves. Married Red DZao women also cut their bangs very short to signify their marriage status. As they get older they change their head scarf to a much larger more decorative one. San May insisted that she will continue wearing the same scarf hoping to stay forever young. We headed north from Sapa up and over a hill, thru villages, past small homes and barking dogs to reach the extensive rice fields we would trek thru.

Two weeks before we arrived, a rare snowfall had occurred in the Sapa region, killing much of the vegetation and many water buffalo. This was disastrous for many families as the water buffalo is what they use on a regular basis for farming. Many of the plants died due to the cold leaving a somewhat dry, desolate landscape, so not quite the lush green rice fields we were hoping for, but still amazingly scenic.

After a few hours of walking, we stopped for a break and a snack. Quang entertained the children with more balloon creations and we gave sugar cane a try.

Throughout the day, we got to know San May and learn about her family and life in Ta Phin. Unlike the majority of the women in her village, she married at the age of 21, while her friends married at 16. Now at 30, she is happily married, with two sons, a 9 year old and a 1 year old. She only started to learn English about a year and a half ago and is super eager to learn more. Aside from being a local tour guide, she farms, cooks, cleans, makes clothes -- pretty much a kickass woman that provides for her family. I asked her if she could travel anywhere where would it be...and she said, "It's my dream to visit Hanoi one day". 

We arrived at our homestay a little after noon and had a lunch of fried noodles and chicken. In an attempt to stay out of the mid-day heat, we took a nap until around 230 PM before heading back out to explore the area surrounding Ta Phin village. When we were ready to go, we found San May keeping busy cross-stitching. She said at the beginning of each year she begins cross-stitching new clothes for herself and her two children, which each take a full year to complete.

As we walked amongst the rice fields, we came across several small schools, most of them were kindergartens that feed into the larger primary school down in the valley.

We really enjoyed our day with San May and the areas surrounding Sapa. Staying in a small homestay outside of the city was also a great experience. The owner, Mr. Daht, of the homestay was very kind and since it was Tết , he had many of his friends and his children visiting. They drank lots of "happy water", and gambled into the night. There were also several of his friends who wanted to take photos with Jonathan.