The day immediately after amazing relaxation on Ha Long Bay, my friends and I set off to northern Vietnam and to the rice terraces of Sa Pa. We planned a 2 day trek with 10 miles of hiking the first day and 5-6 miles the second day with a comfortable home stay the night in between.
We walked through so much natural beauty, I almost forgot that places like Los Angeles (aka Home) existed. I was so taken aback about how nimble and agile the (ridiculously) young H'mong women were. These women all wore simple rubber slippers and were able to climb slippery hills and march through brush without any difficulty. Meanwhile, all of us westerners in our expensive hiking boots and gear were slipping and sliding all over the terraces.
I think one person I will always remember is our 19 year old H'mong tour guide who was very sweet but sometimes moved too quickly for some people in our party. I was interested in her lifestyle so I asked about what she did in her youth and what she did for fun. The first surprise was finding out that she was 19 when she really looked 13 or 14 (Bless the youthful Asian genes!). The second was that she was married to her 16 year old husband and had no children. She explained to me that she was got married relatively late compared to her peers as the normal age was around 14-16. She also mentioned that most of her younger friends already had babies while she was just trying to work. I learned a lot about traditional H'mong customs including the general acceptance that if you are a woman and not married by 21 or 22, you are considered lazy and unfit for marriage. In this world, men stayed at home and tended to the farm while women worked in tourism mainly because women are more marketable for tourists.
Before I go off into more detail about my interactions with H'mong women, here are some great shots of the two days!
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