Friday, 12 September 2014

Sa Pa | Report Four | The People of Tay Bac

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
It took us far longer than expected to drive from Hanoi to Sa Pa, the famous hill station in the north of Viet Nam. The brand new highway is supposed to cut the journey time from approximately 10-12 hours to a mere 4 or so, but because a section was closed for repairs, we had to take the back roads, and reconnect into it not too far from Lao Cai....so we did it in about 8 hours.

Sa Pa is still humid (in comparison to two years ago, when it was really cool at the same time of the year), but it's tolerable. Accompanied by our Hanoi minder Huyen, and now Lan...our new Hmong guide in Sa Pa (and beyond), we explored the market area. The vendors have quieted down from what I recall, and there are less of them hassling the newcomers.

At one point, I heard unmistakable religious music emanating from a nondescript building, and asking around, I was told it was a temple. I walked in and encountered a handful of women dressed in red traditional clothes who, through sign language, told me that a ceremony would start at 9:00 am.

Religious music and ceremonies are like catnip to me...and I decided to forgo the street photography morning in its favor.

Rustling up the rest of the group wasn't an easy matter as they had dispersed around the area, but we finally found ourselves welcomed to the temple by around 15-18 women wearing these red outfits.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

It appeared that it was a rehearsal for a much larger ceremony which was to occur tomorrow. Naturally, we will be on our way to Bac Ha by that time, so we thanked our stars to be able to catch it.

Despite our being occasionally in the way,  the congregants were extremely gracious and didn't seem to mind us at all...quite the opposite. In short, this photo shoot (once again, serendipitous) was an enormous success for all of us.

Technical porn snippet: The Fuji X-T1 performed flawlessly. The X Pro-1 showed its age.

In contrast, our afternoon photo shoot to the village of Cat Cat, described as an age-old village of H’Mong ethnic group, was an immense flop of monumental proportions. If you fancy walking (actually quite an arduous trek) in the company of busloads of tourists, then go....but this was an epic fail. I'm not going to waste one sentence on it.