After trekking in the baking heat, I stood on top of a mountain staring at the terrace fields as they went on for miles. The sundried grass, the puddle of water on steps, the small homes occupied with hay, the women working was all a sight to behold. The view was captivating, the effort to make it uphill and the long bus drive, was beyond worth it.  Our tour guide told us that the steps are made by man, they start uphill and it could take about a year to be finished with just one. The steps go all the way to the bottom of the hill, the years and effort put into these fields, was astonishing. People who still live off the land are deemed primitive, backward and etc. Prior to coming to the rural mountainous area, you hear a lot of dialogue about their backwardness and most of the conversation surrounding them aren’t pleasant ones. They are filled with sympathy for the moutainous people. Yet, the rice terrace fields prove an intelligence about the people, the ability to utilize their surroundings for subsistence shouldn’t go unnoticed and is something worth praising.

         While the others decided to soak in the hot springs, I walked around the village that we were staying by. There were homes on stilts, small children passing yelling hello. I peered inside of some homes and I saw televisions and yes, I was surprised. A lot of people talk about the mountainous people as if they are far from the modern world, which they are, but they have TV so that means that they are at least still checking in. 

The dewy morning moisturizes my skin and I was awakened by the loud crow of a rooster at 6 am.

And then we reached Sa Pa. I didn’t know what to expect out of Sa Pa, I knew the place became a tourist attraction because of all the signs advertising trips there, even my YouTube videos started having commercials encouraging a trip to Sa Pa. But when we got there, it was beyond my expectation. A mini city on top of a mountain, where the majority of the tourist was from other Asian countries. There were French styled buildings, the Sun Plaza where tourists stood to take their pictures and a huge arena, where ethnic minorities sat to sell their goods. The streets were scattered with little children draped in traditional attire trying to sell small items. They had to range from 3-5 years of age, the other ones carried their younger siblings on their backs, and they sat under an umbrella, with sad eyes, not even advertising their goods, but anticipating the sympathy of tourist. Some tourists did stop, took some pictures of the young children and then left. Everyone kept saying how sad it was. As touristy as Sa Pa has become, I wonder where the revenue is going? Shouldn’t the government be looking into ways to reduce the number of children in the street selling items while their parents work doing the same? Wouldn’t it be feasible for there to be a productive learning space for these children to go to while their parents work? I think Sa Pa was where I saw the face of inequality within Vietnam because there were literally night clubs jumping with tourist, fancy restaurants that charged a lot of dong for food, while children were right across the street begging for small change. It reminded me too much of NYC, it reminded me too much of capitalism and I just wondered about where all the money was going.

I woke up around 7 am and rushed to get breakfast before we headed to the market. Breakfast was on the top floor, so we had a view of the mountains. But the clouds were so dense you couldn’t see much until it began to dance along the top of the tall green mountains. Uh, it was beautiful. I stared at the clouds move along kissing the heads of the mountains, dancing through them and couldn’t believe my eye. ‘Everyone needs to see this’, I thought.

         The Sunday Market at Bac Ha was lively, filled with women and men from the mountainous areas selling their products, homemade or homegrown. These people started their journey from their homes at 3 am in efforts to get to the market early to set up and stay until early afternoon. Young girls dressed in colorful traditional attire paraded around the streets, while young boys played with their animals, sold goods, or watched chicken fights. Babies were holstered on backs, young children walked barefoot, and a water buffalo took a dump in the middle of the road. Old women sat on the steps selling their produce, laughing, bargaining. Others sold hand-embroidered tapestries, blankets, bags and etc. They hollered at you if you tried to pass them without buying. There was a place where water buffalos were being sold, a space for dogs, horses, ducks, chickens you name it and Bac Ha probably was well equipped with essential living items. The best part of the Sunday market at Bac Ha was watching the locals as a lot of them watched me. Interested at my hair, I had a lot of hair touching that day. But I was more curious about them and their survival on top of a hill.