|The first day spent in Sapa was a day to rest and recover from too many bus rides and in the late afternoon, while sitting out on the balcony of our hotel room (for $6 total a night), we witnessed a great porker site. The road outside the hotel is lined with hotels, restaurants, and tour agencies and thus is quite busy with pedestrians, motor bikes, buses, jeeps, and trucks. There are many sounds but the first real abnormal sound we heard was some loud squealing blended with the sound of a motor bike. I stood up quickly to witness two fairly large pigs tied to the side of a motor bike, in the place where rear panel bags might attach. The pigs just squealed away and the driver just kept going along, determined to bring home his new prized purchase. A few minutes later there was more commotion, it was louder and closer to the hotel than the first pig encounter. Again, standing and looking down to the street I saw two more screaming pigs and a crowd of people watching them. The road outside curves a bit, but another road/path turns off and then quickly turns into stairs leading down to some homes; this was the road closest to us. It seems a man was walking with two pigs, maybe the same two from the bike, and once the man and the pigs reached the staircase the pigs started to act in a recalcitrant manner. One pig started down the stairs as it was supposed to, with just a few screams and a few pushes from the man. Once to the bottom a helper tried to control the pig from continuing on and was able to contain the pig in the general area for a short time while the other pig was being tended to. Pig number two was going nuts. There were a few people helping with the owner taking charge, the problem was that the pig had no desire to be ordered around. First the man tried to simply walk the pig down the stairs, a no go. Second he tried pulling the pig down the stairs by the tail, then by the ears which quickly turned into a full wrestling match. The pig won and moved himself back to the top of the stairs to start roaming around the parked cars. It seemed as though even on the flat surface no one was able to control the loose pig. There was the owner attempting and a few other helpers trying to poke, prod, pull, trying anything that might work to move the pig. Meanwhile pig number one had become bored with waiting at the bottom of the stairs so he thought he would go back to the top to join his buddy, but the stairs seemed all too easy, he decided to walk up the 6 inch wide and 6 inch deep drainage gutter channeled to the side of the stairs. For the owner this proved OK since this delayed any speediness the pig might have had at an escape. The pig would take a half step and get stuck, then push his snout down into the gutter to become more stuck, until finally becoming unstuck somehow just to start the process over. During this time pig two was still wandering aimlessly at the top of the stairs and the owner was getting upset over the trouble and the spectacle he had become. He caught up to the pig, wrapped his hand firmly around the tail like it was a rope on a bull and he started pulling with all his strength. A woman did some pushing to jump start the process and then stood aside. The owner pulled faster than the pig could possibly walk backwards so the pig was forced to push his front legs in front of his body to try and slow the movement with a body slide. This did not work. Although never surrendering the pig eventually lost and was dragged down the middle of the steps where there was a built in plank area used for pushing bikes or carts up and down. The pig seemed to be on his chin and neck the whole time but was able to keep his hind legs erect and bouncing. Once to the bottom of the stairs he started moving in the correct direction to the pleasure of the owner. Pig number one just needed a few good pushes and he was free and obediently moved to the bottom of the stairs with pig number two. The highlight of day one.|
The other days here have been just as exciting but maybe in a different way. On day two we went on a 6 hour zoo walk, that is we walked through some traditional minority villages where we stared at the local people and they stared right back at us. I actually found this quite interesting, there was the whole living museum feel at times but the walk was through the hills of rice patties south-east of Sapa and the views were amazing. The valley we were in had a small river at the bottom and then rice terraces carved into the mountains from the river to almost the top. There were workers everywhere, harvesting rice, building new patties, or plowing with the help of the buffalo. The workers were of all ages, literally, from maybe 12 to 70. The children under 12 took care of the even younger children or chased the tourists around to sell them something or to practice their English. Most of the minority cultures we saw were H'Mong. There were different types such as Black, Red, and Flower but these seemed just to represent little differences such as what crops they grow, what color they wear, ect. They all dress in beautiful, colorful clothes, however they seem so heavy that I don't understand how they take the heat. Everyone speaks a tribal language, the younger generations also speak Vietnamese, and it seems like all the kids speak English, just from conversing with the tourists. The typical way of life for boys is to go to school until they are needed in the fields or they are at the age which schooling is no longer free (very few move on to college or secondary school). The girls generally do not go to school, they traditionally get married at 12 or 13 and then go work in the fields. We had a guide that was a girl of 20, she never went to school but taught herself to read and write Vietnamese and learned English from speaking with tourists. She spoke very good English. She said that she has trouble writing Vietnamese because she learned so late, but has an easier time typing it (she says she has an old hand). She is an anomaly as she has not married.
Yesterday we visited a nearby Sunday market. It is one of the larger markets in the area and is a social area for all of the local people. As far as dress goes it is probably the most colorful market I have ever been to. We just walked around and observed only buying some peppercorn, a Chinese spice we are not convinced we can buy at home. I thought of buying a baby pig or dog to travel with as a pet but decided that wasn't real logical. Luckily I was not tempted to buy a buffalo as we arrived late and there were none left. The pigs were just funny and so stupid that it would have been fun, if I would have gotten it back to the States I think it would have made a nice gift for Danny. Sorry Danny, its a no go. The puppies were all in cages and being bought to eat, real sad. I guess if you buy one they will cut it up for you to bring the meat home. Most of the local people don't realize that we keep dogs as pets. Sort of a cultural difference I guess.
This morning we hired motorbikes and braved our horn skills, driving skills, balance skills, and num-chuck skills on touring around the area. We road up to a nearby pass, saw some beautiful mountains, just had fun. Moped-gang-Bozeman needs to happen this summer. Patrick start keeping your eye out for some cheapos.
Well, we are off for a train to Hanoi. If anyone would like some dog meat shipped to them....I don't think I will be able to try it myself but let me know. We had some rabbit for lunch, that was tasty. Also some venison and good ol' chicken.