Ho Chi Minh City and the Cu Chi Tunnels

We finally reached the old capital of South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon.

When we arrived around 9pm, we were helped by a little old lady. I’m not sure what she was getting out of the deal, so we were wary of where she was taking us. But we told her we wanted an air-conditioned room, with wifi, and clean sheets for $8.00 and she took us to several guesthouses in the backpackers area, none of which were really exactly what we were looking for. When we were about to give up, she said she had one final last hope for us to be happy. (a little dramatic, but maybe we were being a little too picky in her eyes)

She took us down a very residential alley, where all of the french doors were open to the living rooms of each house we passed so we could see right in to the families that were sitting on their polished tile floors watching Vietnamese game shows and soap operas while the women were right outside taking down laundry or squatting over hot grills with pots full of chicken feet and who knows what else. Their new shoes were even lined up right on the street outside their doors. Without trying to be too intrusive, we also noticed that in almost every one of the homes, there seemed to be at least one disabled person, usually one of the children. Some were missing limbs, some had heads that seemed much to large for their bodies, and some just seemed to be quadriplegic laying on the floor in front of the TV with the rest of the family.

After several twists and turns, we made it to a very clean home that had a small sign on the doorway claiming to be a homestay/guesthouse. A well dressed man with slicked back gelled hair, huge diamond earrings, and a severely sassy attitude greeted us and showed us to the available room. Did I mention that he was also around 4 feet tall and was lacking what most people would consider arms? The room was clean and quiet and seemed to meet all of our expectations, except for the price: $14 with air-conditioning, or $10 without. We started to get into our Vietnamese bargaining mode, but he cut us off and said, “You have no reason to not stay here, it is perfect for you, do you have any problems with the room?” and we were stumped, and exhausted. He was the first person to tell it to us straight and Kelly and I were so busy trying to figure out how his hair was so perfectly gelled that we gave in and took the room.

We didn’t take too many photos in Ho Chi Min City. Because we were warned of pick pockets and purse thieves, the camera was largely locked up in our motel room. We spent most of the scorching hot days inside in places like the War Remnants Museum, which was a slightly skewed look at the American War (we know it as the Vietnam war) and how the Americans came over and slaughtered the Vietnamese people, but they overcame and pushed America out. Most of the museum goers were Asian or European. It was one place where it felt like a hostile environment to be an American.

We also learned a lot about the victims of Agent Orange at the museum. Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides used by the US Military. During the Vietnam war, between 1962 and 1971, the they sprayed 20,000,000 US gallons over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  The goal was to deforest the rural areas where the guerrillas were hiding their camps. They had no idea what the effects would be to the humans that came into contact with it, or the children of those men. People who live in Saigon now are just now showing effects of the damage it caused. After going to the Museum, we realized that our alley we were staying on was not a special Agent Orange alley, but just a common sight in Vietnam.

I’m not going to put any of the graphic images that represent what we saw, but if you would like a representation feel free to google some images, or just click here. *VERY GRAPHIC*

We also took a few day trips while we were in the sweltering heat of Saigon. We went to their AWESOME WATER PARK, only a few minutes outside of the city. We had a great time cooling off. Not to mentions, there were absolutely no lines. It was a full sized water park and there were probably no more than thirty people there. And the Vietnamese mothers and children that were there were completely clothed. We saw a woman get into the wave pool wearing a crushed velvet jacket, jeans, and a hat. They are either really modest or really don’t want to get a tan. Probably both.

 

Our other trip we took was out to see the CuChi Tunnels (I know, I know, but it’s pronounced Choo-Chee).  These are tunnels that the Viet Cong (Vietnamese Guerrilla fighters) used to hide from US troops during the Vietnam War. We saw hideouts that were miles long and virtually undetected.

This is a scale model of the tunnels in the area we were visiting

Death traps for those pesky American soldiers

more booby traps

Kelly hanging out with some Viet Cong

Entrance to the tunnels

going into hiding...

Kelly is doing a great job, considering these tunnels are made for people half our size.

After we made it through the tunnels, they show us how rice paper is made and give us some refreshments like what the Vietnamese soldiers would have had. Strange hard cookies and grass-flavored tea… mmm

sun drying rice paper on racks

After we got back to Saigon, we hopped on the afternoon bus that would lead us over the border into CAMBODIA!

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A Tour of South Vietnam: Part 3

Mui Ne

 

Mui Ne is all the way down South

After Dalat, we headed back down those windy mountain roads even further down the coast of Southern Vietnam. Mui Ne is a beach town that is supposed to have a laid back vibe and a small surfing community. The town consists of a 10 mile stretch of two-lane road that follows the coast. It’s a little challenging to see the whole place unless you have a motorbike. When we arrived we walked around with our backpacks for about half an hour before finding this little gem of a motel, right on the beach for about $8.00 a night.

Our Beachside Room

only steps between our room and the beach!

 

 

After exploring the nearby beach and enjoying a much needed pineapple/mango smoothie from our hotel, we ventured out onto the main road to see what else was near by. Around sunset we came across this tin shack a few miles down the road from the motel. The menu had ridiculously cheap seafood and beer, and the smell that was coming out of the little grill was unbelievable, so we had to stop and get a snack. Needless to say, this became our new favorite place; somewhere we would be going to several times in the next few days.

We met up with a girl from China, who was on the bus with us from Dalat to MuiNe. WE all shared some garlic mussels and grilled shrimp. And then she was nice enough to take us both back to our motel. First she took kelly on her motorbike, and then came back for me.

 

The next day, we set out on a day trip to see as much of the area as possible. We would have liked to go on a private motorbike tour of the countryside, but we were too wary of being scammed by the drivers, after all, we were in Vietnam. So we opted for a coach tour, which seemed like the most trustworthy option. It took us to a fishing village further up the coast, where they use little 3 man fishing boats that look like baskets.

 

Tons of small traditional fishing boats

And then, we were supposed to visit the White sand dunes and the Red sand dunes that Mui Ne is famous for. But a few things went wrong. First, a storm started brewing (we were still in the Monsoon season) and then one of the tires on the bus blew out.

A storm heading right for us

 

The bus breaks down, just in time for a natural disaster

and of course the Korean tourists take the opportunity to take photos, in the middle of the street with oncoming traffic.

But then again, so am I...

Finally, we got moving, but by then the storm was right on top of us. So we had to sit under a thatched roof for almost an hour before the pouring rain cleared up a little and we could check out the dunes, which would have been so much more impressive without the rain.

back on the road to the not-so-promising sand dunes

 

waiting out the rain with a present from a little boy, he didn't even ask us to buy it from him

still raining, but we found a puppy!

starting to clear up

 

By the time we left the white sand dunes, it was almost dark and the tour guide/bus driver said we were going to skip the Red sand dunes, which was supposed to be the most impressive part of the day. Everyone on the bus protested, so we got to go anyway, but buy then there wasn’t much to see…

The red dunes

On our last night in Mui Ne, we went back to our favorite seafood spot on the beach. It was a mile or two each way, but totally worth the walk. We got there and ate our delicious mussels and scallops and drank our cheap beer and once again the rain came our way. We decided to wait it out and have a few more beers with some of the other patrons, but as the rain kept coming, most of them braved the storm and jumped on their motorbikes and headed back to their homes and hotels. Eventually we were the only ones left, with the exception of the owner and her son. Walking home was no longer an option, because the water had flooded the street and was about waist high. The son offered to drive all 3 of us on his motorbike to our hotel for a small fee. We accepted and rode through the waist-deep water in the streets. It felt more like a jetski than a motorcycle, I don’t know how the bike was still working, but it got us there safely. And the next morning we were back on the bus with our wet clothes and all.

We survived the monsoon!

Only one more destination left in this crazy country. Next Stop: Saigon!

A tour of South Vietnam: Part 2

DALAT

So, we are continuing our journey in South East Asia, by heading a little inland and deeper into Southern Vietnam on a bumpy windy mountainous road to Dalat. This place is a quaint little mountain town that is supposed to have a kitchy vibe. It has lovely gardens in the middle of the busy mainstreet, a huge market (not unlike any other SE Asian city) and a mini-Eiffel tower. Yes, if you do remember, Vietnam was originally colonized by the French. Hence the excellent French coffee and baguettes tasted through out Vietnam.

It’s also known for having unique crops for SE Asia. Due to the high altitude and cooler climate, it is the perfect place to cultivate coffee (which the region is most famous for) and tea, as well as fruits and veggies that you’d be surprised to see in Vietnam, like strawberries and asparagus.

Our plan was to get away from the heat, don our hoodies and explore the town one cup of coffee at a time. And maybe do some outdoor exploring. Tons of organizations do trekking and rafting tours that sounded like fun.  However, the plan was delayed for a day or two, due to a little thing called a Typhoon (or a hurricane to y’all down in Florida) We thought it was just another rainy day. Yes, the winds were exceptionally strong, and the rain was sideways and the internet was completely down all over the city (I thought that’s not too uncommon in a third world country) We didn’t even realize what extensive damage the typhoon had caused in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam until the next morning when we were watching CNN in our comfy (actually quite luxurious) $5 room. So, we checked with the front desk–they were online again, and we skyped our parents. They were beyond freaked out, up all night watching the sensationalized news back home and had just assumed that we were two of the 70ish people who died in the storm. Once we convinced them that we were not going to be on the next flight home, we took to the streets to explore Dalat for ourselves.

Since the storm had severely flooded most of the rural areas all the nature tours were out of the question, but we did check out some of Dalat’s other oddities. Here are some of the highlights:

– A Chinese Hot Pot restaurant. We don’t know the name of it, but it had a chic decor, was dirt cheap, and we got a Thai seafood hot pot that kept my noise running from the heat of the spices the whole meal. It was perfect.

– A vegetarian Restaurant that had all of the Vietnamese classics that we had been unable to try due to their meatiness. We went there like 4 times in the 3 days we were there. Even taking some for the bus ride early in the morning. We got to try Baozi (a chinese steamed bun that we have been admiring for most of our trip and is always filled with some meat of indeterminate origins) and a veggie pate version of Banh Mi, the now famous Vietnamese sandwiches made on a warm french baguette.

-Experiencing Vietnamese Coffee as authentically and as close to the source as possible. I wish I could recreate that back home.

-And last but not least, the kookiest part of dalat, The Crazy House. It is a tree house hotel and gallery that has crazy rooms with different animal themes that you can stay in, or just tour it like we did. The architect was a woman named Hang Nga. The house is supposed to to have some anti-socialist political interpretations, which is pretty interesting considering that in 1980 her father was president of Vietnam.

Kelly getting tickets

The honey bear room

getting from room to room to roof.

The tiger with red eyes room

The eagle egg room

Just proving that Kelly is still alive after the Typhoon. Hi Mom!

just another hallway

some of the real local fauna that was hanging around the crazy house that day

A Tour of Southern Vietnam: Part 1

OK, I know we haven’t been very good about the blog, and have been keeping you waiting for oh maybe 3 or 4 or 5 months. Sorry. We’d still like to show everyone where we have been and what we have done, so we will eventually complete our whole trip. Look forward to a lot more picture blogs, they’ll be shorter and with a lot less writing. Enjoy! x, Ellie

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is supposed to be this crazy clubbin’ party beach town place that we were a little dreading and a little excited about. It turns out that it’s not such a happening place, however, during the rainy season. And it did rain quite a bit while we were there. Apparently, there was a typhoon (like a hurricane) heading our direction, but that story is for a later blog, because, at the time, we were totally unaware of that fact.

We did manage to find a nice hotel with a (not too distant) beach view for $8 and some live music at a local bar that sadly was dead after 11pm.

Sitting on the beach, the first day we arrived (and only non-rainy day) we discovered the highlight of Nha Trang: The seafood sellers! These little Vietnamese ladies come around with fresh caught seafood and a little grill in a basket. You say the word and before you know it, you’ve got a beer in your hand and a whole picnic set up right in front of you. They even give you a plastic tarp to sit on. Kelly and I both agree that this meal might have been the best meal of our lives.

A Vietnam War vet we met on the beach has mastered the art of haggling for a fair price for his dinner.

So we got all this grilled up with delicious pepper-lime sauce, plus a giant conch and a beer for less than $5! So we decided to each get our own grilled lobster and scallop and conch meal.

A perfect sunset meal!

After that meal, we decided repeat this amazing meal every night until we left Nha Trang, but every other night was really rainy and we never saw those magical seafood sellers again.

Kelly’s Birthday!

Hey Blog Readers! Ellie here, just want to let you know that Kelly’s Birthday is March 13th (just around the corner) and we just got our PayPal account up and running again. So, if you are not sure what to get the girl who’s been everywhere… feel free to donate to a good cause: Helping Kelly Get Home.

The Soon-to-be Birthday Girl!

We miss everyone and I promise we are really working on this whole blog situation. Only 85 days till we’re back in the Sunshine State. Keep checking back.

Fashion and Food in Hoi An

Kelly walking around town in the rain, while tri-shaw men hide out under their bike canopies.

Hoi An is a super popular tourist city in central Vietnam. It has some of the best preserved architecture and gets its street cred with travelers by having the world’s cheapest tailors who can make clothing to fit to your body (anything you want, like a wedding dress, jeans, a suit, or a coat). It also is the gastronomic hot spot of Vietnam, as it has a couple of specialties that can only be found in Hoi An. Add to this all a pretty good beach, just a 15 minute bike ride away from the center of town, which is best not in the rainy season, unfortunately for us, and you have a cool, although heavily-touristed, city

On our way to Hoi An, we embarked on our very first sleeper bus. Everything was going fine. We had our own individual berths and then, suddenly, a brick came flying through the darkness and crashed into the window next to Ellie’s head. Ellie was luckily not in her berth, as she was thoughtfully and patiently, listening to me whine about the Vietnamese music blasting next to my brain. (If only I knew that, just how used to this music I would become.) Regardless, our bus stopped for about 2 hours on the side of the road, while men put loads and loads of tape on the window and essentially did nothing about the problem at all.

Getting to Hoi An in the pouring rain was another challenge, but we quickly found a clean hotel room and began our immense pleasure for Hoi An food immediately after throwing down our bags. We spent our time, eating a huge amount of food, walking around the picturesque streets that have twinkling cafes and beautiful lanterns at night-time, and taking any nice weather we had to ride our bike to the beach and sightsee.

Kelly in front of the Japanese covered bridge.

A snack on our bike ride home. A nice view and a shrimp and orange salad.

The Hoi An market in the center of town is an aromatic chaotic place. Women race by with whole fish, men try to get you to buy their herbs, and grannies sell the famous Vietnamese coffee grounds. We visited the market as part of a cooking course we signed up for with the Red Bridge cooking school. Their cooking school is a few kilometers down the river by boat at a very lush property where they unveil the secrets of Vietnamese cooking.

In Vietnam, many women chew on betelnut which is similar to chewing tobacco and addictive. It turns their teeth an unsightly shade as though they got punched in the mouth.

Kelly on the boat to the cooking class.

Our chef in the gardens of the Red Bridge Cooking School.

Studying our notes and recipes with the rest of the cooking class.

Kelly, proud with her Vietnamese spring rolls from scratch, even the rice paper. This was maybe the first thing she has ever cooked besides toast.

Ellie with a shrimp Vietnamese pancake. Yum.

Eggplant in a Claypot

Spicy seafood salad in a pineapple with fruit

After eating all of that food at the cooking course, it wasn’t very logical to get clothes tailor-made, but we’re not very logical anyway. The women were not very tactful at times about “adding” extra material for a Western woman, but I quickly grew a tough exterior about it. I got a pair of jeans made and Ellie got a dress and some shorts and pants made. It’s all really affordable. My jeans cost 15 USD. I will say that they weren’t exactly what I wanted, but after 3 fittings, I figured they were good enough.

Our tailor looks ever so enthused about making our garments. Most Vietnamese look this enthused on a regular basis though.

So once, we had finished our clothes, we decided that it went well enough to try for a cheap pair of shoes. I always had this dream of custom-making Nike high-tops, but on the Nike website, they’re obscenely expensive. I thought Hoi An was a good place for some custom high-tops and Ellie wanted some leather shoes. I chose my grey leather, paid (after being told I had to pay in advance) and hoped for the best. I should have hoped harder. My shoes came back blue. I tried to politely ask the shop-owner who hadn’t been there yesterday if we could change the color to the original one I chose the swatch of. He grew very agitated and nervous about something quickly. The shopkeepers began pulling the shoe displays off the front porch and acting suspicious. Maybe they were about to get busted, as everyone on the whole block was doing the same. Suddenly, the man’s aggravation got turned towards me. He started screaming at the top of his lungs, veins popped from his red neck and he threw a chair against a wall, muttering expletives at us the whole time. Some girls we had been chatting with were i the backroom, trying to makr complaints about their wrong shoes as well and the shop-owner wouldn’t let us speak with them. He literally cornered them in the back-room. Then came the last straw, he threw the Nike’s at Ellie’s head. We decided he had reached some kind of point in his anger, where it was best for us to leave and forget about the 12 dollars lost.

Lesson is: Never go to this shoe-shop while in Hoi-An.

The shop-owner retreating in rage.

Disclaimer: While our last couple of blogs haven’t shed the Vietnamese in such a positive light, with the money stealing and the shoe-throwing (and most of the time, they’re not much better than that anyway), the country is still really beautiful, the food amazing and there are “some” nice people. Don’t let our commentary scare you if you try to visit. Just be on your guard and try to ignore there demeanors. Don’t take it personally.

The new pants.

The new shoes.

The new shorts.

After our bad afternoon, the rain had figuratively and literally cleared and we decided to move on from the bad time. There are these food stalls in Hoi An, which produce the most amazing food at really cheap prices. The people who run the family stalls are incredibly friendly and willing to help. They even helped us when our 500,000 dong bill ripped in half. In Vietnam, if a bill has a rip in it, they won’t accept it and you have to take it to the bank. It was a weekend and it was our biggest bill. The owners slyly taped it up for us to pass on somewhere else. While we ate spicy lemongrass tofu and the special Hoi An wontons, we spotted Sophia and Paula, the girls who were marooned in the shoe-shop after we left. They spoke of being scared of the shop-owner, but being released after we left. We drank beer with them and then followed a flyer to the other side of the bridge to go to a bar that was promising free drinks all night, just so they could get more tourists in the desolate joint.

Food Stalls

Kelly's first Motorbike ride (and driver) to the bar, mostly because it was a free ride. Safety first, of course.

Free White Russians! Wait, what is that red stuff at the bottom. Possibly the worst drink in Vietnam. It tasted like pepto-bismol and puke. No wonder it was free drinks all night.

Hoi An is famous for their lantern-making as well.

Even though, the people were almost worse in Hoi An than Hanoi, I would go back in an instant to the charming, well-preserved town, with the best food in Vietnam.

North Vietnam

We took an overnight bus to Sapa in North Vietnam. Sapa gets a reputation for being the tourist gateway to the Northern hill-tribes and a good base to start trekking in the surrounding countryside. The center of Sapa is literally over-run with hill-tribe women in traditional garb, trying to get you to buy any manner of handicraft that they claim is “hand-made.”

Red Dzao

Kelly with a Black Hamong tribeswoman

We mostly saw Red Dzao and Red and Black Hmong tribes people in Sapa. Their clothing is gorgeous and they are beyond friendly, but most of the friendliness is to rope you into buying something from them.  They say, “where you from? You have sister and brothers? You want to buy from me?” They give you a free “Vietnam friendship bracelet” which is actually code for marking you as their territory. Regardless, you can learn loads about the hill tribes if you try to direct the conversation to them rather than you. They always begin conversations asking about where you come from, but the more interesting topic is where they come from. Many of the tribeswomen walk for many hours a day to get into Sapa to sell their goods because it has the highest concentration of tourists. It’s a matriarchal society and the men take care of the children and home while the women are entrepreneurs. The women while interesting, can get incredibly pushy, demanding that you buy from them and whining when you refuse. A group of young girls waited on our hotel steps to try to get us to buy from them when we came out. We learned never say “Maybe.” Just say “NO” from the beginning because otherwise, you’ll have the same group of girls following you around the whole time.

Playing hide and seek with pushy 8 year-olds is actually pretty intimidating. Most of the time, the youngest girls carry their little siblings on their backs all day.

Sapa as a town is cheap and absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous. It’s much cooler than other areas of Vietnam because it’s at high elevation. The rice terraces of Sapa are one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen. We were there in the rainy season so everything was bright green as far as the eye could see. We did a short day trek from Sapa through a couple of pretty touristed Hmong villages, but completely worth it for the scenery.

The hilltribe children were also amazing. They are so poor, but still seemed to be having fun in the village while their moms sold their wares. Really beautiful kids.

This poor child was put here by her brothers and sisters who wanted to collect money for photographing her. We didn't pay them, but did feel bad that after we walked by, they just forgot about her and kept on playing until the next tourists came along. Sitting on a logpile all day doesn't look very comfortable.

For some reason, this kid was really busy moving this old tire from one spot to the next. I couldn't decipher if this was his toy, or he was actually doing manual labor, but he was all business. He handled this tire with more dexterity than more childre his age could.

Many of the hilltribe woman will ask if they can take you to their village as a tour guide. If we had more time, we would have taken them up on the offer to see some more authentic villages. I think it’s a great way to support the women and their families without buying overpriced, low-quality souvenirs. But a few tribeswomen walked with us for part of our trek and we took the opportunity to learn a little bit about them and their everyday lives.

Our hotel in Sapa was only 5 USD a night because we were there in the monsoon season and it was a gorgeous room with our own balcony overlooking the main street and mountains. It was really foggy at some points, but it made it even more beautiful.

View from the room

There were also some really nice places to eat in Sapa. The baked goods at Baguette and Chocolate were delicious and the menu seemed really inspired. We had breakfast at the Sapa Boutique hotel and I can not praise this restaurant/hotel highly enough. The breakfasts are inventive and the hotel is gorgeous with all the paintings and goods made by tribes people. I had corn fritters with a creamy tomato sauce and a fancy mixed fruit shake. Ellie had some fancy French toast with passionfruit and coconut.

The owner is a huge supporter of helping the hill tribes out of the huge poverty that most of them live in. All of the employees are employed from hill-tribes and on Sunday, there is a soup kitchen for the young girls and children who make the trek with their families to sell the crafts. The soup kitchen focuses on teaching the girls good hygiene and gives them soap and toothbrushes for their homes. You can also “sponsor a family” by helping purchase a water buffalo to give to a family as a gift for helping with crops. If in Sapa, you must check it out.

From Sapa, we took a very long bus ride to Bac Ha which is a small village that doesn’t have very many tourists aside from the Sunday market where the tourist buses come in droves from Sapa after lunch time. We decided to arrive Saturday night to get to the market early. The bus ride to Bac Ha was a twisted, turning nightmare of a road but with some of the most awe-inspiring scenery of the mountains I have ever seen. I was really frustrated initially because the buses in Vietnam often drive around until full which could mean waiting an extra hour or two, while circling the town while someone yells the destination to pedestrians. The whole thing is annoying. They then load everything they can find on to the bus, including, on this particular ride, chickens, pillows, brooms, and a table saw which was at least a ton and got loaded to the top of the bus. Halfway through the ride, after stopping 20 times along the way, the young boy who works on the bus, sweaty from lifting the table saw off the roof of the bus, hands me a present. A stick of cinnamon pulled from a tree. It was amazing and I instantly felt like a jerk for being so impatient when all I had to do was stare at the scenery whizzing by my window and chew cinnamon.

Ellie eating the cinnamon bark with the goods piled high behind her head.

That Saturday night was pretty boring since Bac Ha really isn’t a happening town. We went to the restaurant across the street and ate delicious Vietnamese food. After our meal, these young Vietnamese guys asked us to sit around their hot pot with them on the floor and chat. We sat around a steaming bowl of some indiscernible brown jello-esque substance. Upon asking what it was, we received the answer that the hotpot was a horse bone marrow hotpot. They added tofu for us to the horse hotpot because they knew we were vegetarians, but it still felt a little odd eating horse-bone marrow flavored tofu. They asked us questions about the US and talked a little about the war with us. I apologized, feeling ashamed for my country’s past antics in this beautiful part of the world. The guy looked me in the eye and assured me that it was all water under the bridge. That’s when I knew that the Vietnamese have learned to accept what happened and move on from it. They kept giving us shots of something that tasted like fire all the way down. When we realized the shots weren’t ending any time soon, we excued ourselves to our hotel to wake early for the market the next day.

The Bac Ha market is where many of the hill-tribe women go to buy material needed to make new garments, fresh vegetables for dinner and wares for their homes. We were the only foreigners there at 8 am, which was amazing, because it was possible to watch the hill-tribe women go along their daily activities. Around noon, all of the tour buses from Sapa began arriving and the women switched from buying to selling mode. Suddenly, we were getting bombarded by women selling stuff and decided that we had seen enough of the market and should get back to the train station, 3 hours away, to prepare for our night train back to Hanoi.

There are 10 Montagnard ethnic hill tribes around the area of Bac Ha. Most of these ladies in these photos are Flower H’mong and their colorful clothing reflects their tribe name.

Just bringing home the groceries.

The best pho I've ever had was 30 cents at a stall populated by hill-tribe women. It was spicy and incredible.

My breakfast companion looks on, probably confused, wondering what is so momentous about market pho.

An amazing drink of black beans, coconut, lime, peanut and passionfruit. It sounds gross but was incredible and sweet.


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