AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Sa Pa is a small mountainous town about 25 miles south of the Chinese border. It is on the tourist trail and has been since 1993 when Vietnam opened it doors to the world. The town is famed for its proximity to a national park and a large number of ethnic minority villages famed for their bright clothing. Due to the poor weather we have not yet been able to appreciate the picturesque rice terraces instead all we can see is mist. We have wandered around the town twice and on every street there are numerous North Face shops. I doubt any are the real thing. This contrasts greatly with the reason most people come here which is to experience the ‘real’ Vietnam. As to what this is I am not quite sure. When backpackers say you have to go here to get the real thing, what do they mean? The locals in their brightly coloured clothes often trek many miles with their embroidered bags and scarves to sell to the hoards of tourists. Their sale’s pitch is excellent. Minority lady – Hello! Where are you from? Shopping? ( Said in a shrill voice) All said in a very polite way, before following you down the street until they spot another westerner. The signs all say not to buy from them and not to give money. The thing is the tours probably exploit the locals as they will most likely only get a small cut from the tours. The surprising thing is that we are once again in a Communist Country and yet everyone is out doing business.  The only difference between the 20 odd North Face trekking stores and the local minority ladies is that the locals are the star attraction and many people find them endearing. What they fail to realise is that they have a ruthless nature and when they smell a weak Westerner or one that finds them cute they won’t go away. We’ve heard stories of people being chased down the side of a hill to escape the pack of local ladies! Posted from...

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