Armchair Travel: Sa-Pa – Part II

It has taken me a good long time to get to Part II of sharing my pictures of Sa-Pa from our trip to Vietnam in 2006. Perhaps at another time I will go into an explanation of the lethargy and general ennui that has been my lot since the beginning of the new year but for now let’s just revel in the beauty of the foothills of the Himalayas.

I mentioned in the first post that we spent a day hiking in the Muong Hoa valley between the town of Sa-Pa and Fansipan Mountain (Phan Xi Păng). The highest peak in Vietnam (3134 m/10,326ft) Fansipan is part of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. We only had one fleeting glimpse or two of the summit through the clouds and mist that came and went over the landscape throughout the day.

Phan Xi Păng – at 3134 m/10,326ft the highest peak in Indo-China.
Photo: Vietnam Coracle

Now lest my faithful reader envisage Laurent and myself in climbing gear scaling rock face, though somehow I’m sure you know us to well to make that mistake, let me assure you that a good pair of walking shoes and several layers of clothing were more than adequate. The trekking paths are well worn by years of valley peoples travelling from their villages to market in Sa-Pa and there were very few steep climbs or descents. And we had a guide who was considerate of the two nonathletic gentlemen of a certain age. It was one of those days where layers were removed, redonned, and removed again as the mists rolled in, the clouds delivered a quick shower or the sun broke through over the terraced rice paddies. And yes that is snow on the rice paddies.

The Hoa Stream (Suoi Hoa), which is fed by numerous small mountain springs, flows through the length of the valley. The five main villages, home to the Black Hmong, Day, Red Dao and Tay peoples, are built along its banks. These “ethnic minorities” are only four of the 55 ethnic groups recognized in Vietnam, however they make up 85% of the population in the Sapa region.

Most of the villagers are farmers who tend their rice terraces and also grow corn and cassava, much of which is fed to their livestock, mainly black pigs, chickens and water buffalo. Some also grow hemp and cotton which is used to make fabric for their clothing. In a future post I’ll have photos of the very hospitable people we met and saw along the trek.

I’ve always wondered if papa had dropped by to take that little pup for an (attempted) outing?

I thought I’d end this post with one of my all-time favourite photos. Not a special breed of cattle just a serendipitous photo op!

The word for April 28th is:
Cattle /ˈkadl/: [noun]
1.1 Large ruminant animals with horns and cloven hoofs, domesticated for meat or milk, or as beasts of burden; cows.
1.2 Similar animals of a group related to domestic cattle, including yak, bison, and water buffalo.
Middle English (also denoting personal property or wealth): from Anglo-Norman French catel, variant of Old French chatel (property).

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