My journey through Vietnam continued in the North via a bumpy 9 hour ride on a sleeper train up a mountain to Lao Cai by way of Hanoi. Not quite the luxury vacation, but it’s really the only way to travel to this region, as it’s quite mountainous and the roads are underdeveloped. We did upgrade to first class on the train, which meant there were only 4 to a cabin instead of 6.
It’s impossible to look fashionable when you’re traveling on bunk beds and then go straight to hiking mountains with local Minorities like the beautiful Flower H’Mong Tribe—which put my style to shame (case in point below).
The colors of the few minority tribes we came across were unreal, like out of a painting. The pigments of the dyes are rich and their handiwork crafting woven pieces are impressive. When they pressured me into buying their bags, I told them I was more interested in the stacks of cuffs that all of the H’mong women were wearing. They let me buy a few of the engraved brass cuffs right off of their wrists after we walked down the mountain together and talked about their village life.
While that was a remarkable experience, it was also heartbreaking to see their poverty and hardships, now relying on tourists coming to Sapa to sell their goods to. “Why you no buy from me” was desperately asked by many of them upon purchasing from another. I regret not buying more of those bracelets!
On the weekends, the Minorities Markets are quintessential to Northern Vietnam with artisans and farmers trekking miles up a mountain to set up and sell their goods. I bought an intricately hand woven and indigo dyed blanket from the market we went to, which will be a stunning bed cover in my bedroom.
We saw similar items claiming they were handmade in Sapa all over, including the bag that I bought and later found it was made in Thailand. These markets and visiting the Sapa women directly seemed to be the only way to get the real thing. It’s a shame because these villages could really use the business, as their children have to start working at age 10 and most have to drop out of school because it’s too difficult to get to on the mountain. It makes you appreciate their skills and gorgeous handmade pieces even more.
|ABOVE| Kimono jacket found at TJMAXX // Liefsdottir tank // Vagamundo pants // Birkenstock sandals // Zara crossbody bag // Urban Outfitters backpack // TOMS sunglasses // necklace and bracelets via Vietnam
|ABOVE| LOFT top // Express pants (old) // Keen hiking sandals // Zara scarf