In September 2013 I decided to go on a trek to meet the minority ethnic groups in northwestern Vietnam Pathen, Tay, long tunic Dao , Nung, red Dao . 8 hours of walking a day do we go from ethnic groups in ethnic, village to village, among the rice fields, crossing rivers. With a guide, an assistant guide and 6 carriers. Each ethnic group with its customs and language, they do not communicate.
I also experienced something very hard taking care of many people stopped on the roadside, being aware that a nurse was going in the corner! Despite the language barrier, I could communicate with gestures, smiles, glances … unforgettable wealth!Form night homestay allows us to immerse ourselves closer to the cultures of minorities, saying the happiest in the world.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a body of water of approximately 1,500 square kilometers located in northern Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin, near China and 170 km east of Hanoi. It is bordered by a coastline of 120 km. Its landscape is marked by the 1969 karst islands that have earned the site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994.Aboard a three-stage junk we leave for a tour in the bay, at the turn of the rocks, sailing in calm and serenity.
By mid-afternoon, a storm boats allows us to pass under a rock with stalactites, arriving on a closed stretch of water, with only the sound of the exotic birds. Happiness !!!We spend our first night on the junk, after a beautiful sunset and a hearty dinner of several kinds of fish.
The next morning, the junk back on the road to the Cave of surprises, we visit: it consists of three rooms stones larger and larger, with impressive stalagmites and stalactites, which gives the imagination forms the most diverse. The play of light is sublime. At the entrance of the cave, two appendices stone are reminiscent of the feet: they are assigned to the engineering of the cave, guard the entrance. Near the cave, a fishing village consists of wooden huts.
By late morning, we return to port, and leave the seaside to an east-west crossing of Vietnam by minibus to the starting point of our trek … No more lazy, time for work! We meet our guide and his assistant.
Read more about Vietnam holidays
The discovery of rice
For this first day of work, I discovered landscapes previously unknown to me: paddy cultivation in floors. We carry our bags for the day, so that carriers are responsible for our bags for 15 days.
At noon, we had lunch at Pathen villagers, in a simple house. We learn to respect the traditions of ethnic minorities in Vietnam, including ancestor worship: an altar is found in every home it is installed there at the time of New Year of the year following the construction of the house. It includes incense sticks, offerings, photos of ancestors and “Uncle Ho Chi Minh.” There are rules to follow: do not place the bag in front, do not sit in front, do not plant his chopsticks upright in the rice bowl (akin to sticks of incense on the altar).
Passing a school, we learn that education is compulsory until the end of the third. Every Monday morning, students are responsible to bring their own chairs for the weekly meeting is actually a tribute to Ho Chi Minh. In the countryside, the school takes place only in the morning, afternoon children lead buffalo in the fields.
At night, we sit in the Tay people in houses on stilts, and take the “drink of friendship” to corn alcohol base. The stilt houses are formed in the same way regardless of ethnicity: the barnyard and buffalo on the ground, and the common room with the ancestors’ altar to the first, on bamboo boards. We find the ancestral altar, suspended hearth (with food reserves), and the second rice bowl.
The awakening taking place at 4am with our friends below (roosters, ducks, dogs …), we expect under nets sunrise. After breakfast, we leave the family to resume our journey along the river, across cultures.At noon, we had lunch at Tay, in a house on stilts with a gentleman who used a shaman to treat sleep disorders, anorexia, digestive disorders and anxiety; problems he attributes to the fact of not having asked permission ancestors for building his house. We have the chance to attend the ceremony of the shaman.
A long walk ahead of us in the afternoon, and we change district arriving at a new minority: Dao long tunic. Mr Ben welcomes us into his house on stilts. Women chew Bethen sheets, making them shiny black teeth
Crossing and swimming in the river
In the morning we start by visiting the village school where we distribute notebooks, pens, markers, … The walk then continues to a river we must cross. The water we knee-length or mid-thigh according to our size, but the current is low enough to let us through without us win. We arrived late morning at a local market in Nung.
Having walked at a brisk pace, we come from 14h Xinh at Mr Tay and his family in a house on stilts. After lunch, the afternoon is “free”: we leave for an afternoon optional walk along a river where we discover the art of fishing with local devices bamboo.
Upon returning from the trip, we can bathe and wash in the river, but fresh showers are not common in the Vietnamese countryside, bathing is not a luxury !!!
The hardest day trek to the “Heavenly Palace”
We leave very early (even today, roosters and ducks have saved us the breakdown pillow) for our longest and hardest day of our trek to the “Heavenly Palace,” in the mountains of Huang Su Phi, in 1250, in a temperature and humidity very unfavorable welfare hikers. However, the beautiful scenery makes us overcome these difficulties, and walking is very pleasant.Today we return to the simple houses, very dark, but where we find tables and chairs in red Dao.
All day we walk through the rice fields. The guide explains the interest of culture stages, due to terrain. After plowing, farmers apply the technique of transplanting. Rice requires heavy irrigation, 5 to 10 cm.In the mountains, people divert some rivers with bamboo tubes. Harvesting is done with a sickle; depending on the region, there is between 1 and 3 annual crops.Until 2005, every newborn at birth received a parcel of land. After harvest, rice is stored dan attics. A party may be sold in case of plenty, if not all, used to feed the family.At noon, we had lunch at the Red Dao in a simple house. The evening we arrived in Nung, in house on stilts.
Sunday, the day of meat!
Today is Sunday: Day of meat for people who can not afford that luxury once a week. Since the beginning of the trek we almost vegetarian. To follow the custom, the guide buys a duck (one of those we had woken up at 4:30 this morning), put it in a bag and left in the care of two porters, who shook and trimbalent throughout the course of the morning. Around 11 am, the two carriers distort our company, not accelerating. When we arrive at 13h at Mr Phu, a Red Dao family, the duck is plucked and ready to be cooked with ginger and cardamom leaves!
In the afternoon, the path leads us to the Dao long tunic, where women embroider and make necklaces. We are fortunate to be able to shower in front of the duck pond and various animals.
The hike this morning takes us to the Celestial Gate, or Cong Troi door Engineering Horse. We throw grass to bring us luck, and so changing district. The landscape changes, we enter a forest of chestnut trees and bamboo. We take our lunch at the Red Dao, Monday food is very poor and only Vegan, since people paid more for the meal of the day before to buy meat.
Tonight is our last night already the trek, as we begin to get used to nights out of bamboo, and the yard at any time of day or night!
Back to the capital
This morning, we leave for our final morning hiking in cultured black rice used in the manufacture of medicinal plants, and tea that women are picking. A storm is expected in the coming days, people also begin harvesting rice eagerly. We reach the minibus, make our farewells to the holders, and take the road to Hanoi, with a break in the Pan Hou village, in small boxes lost in the Vietnamese countryside. There, the reward of the trek ahead: massage bath, massage shower.
Visiting the local market is also very typical: the program, legs spread, meat hooks of “butcher” incubated eggs, chicks fetus, fish … and liquor bottles containing crows and snakes. Just like in Bronzés are skiing !!!
The last day is dedicated to the Ha Noi visit, the capital of Vietnam, 3 million, but far exceeded by its rival Ho Chi Minh City, located further south.
On the agenda today:
- A visit to the Tran Quoc Pagoda on the edge of Grand Lake;
- A visit to the One Pillar Pagoda;
- The transition to the monument to Ho Chi Minh, with his tomb, beside the place where he had declared Vietnam’s independence in 1945;
- Visit the Temple of Literature, dedicated largely to Confucius;
- Visit the Museum of Ethnography, interior and exterior, replicating habitats of minorities;
- Puppet theater;
- The Little Lake in Hanoi;
- The streets, shops, tangled electrical son, his rickshaw and unusual events …