After a morning hiking up and over hill upon hill of remote villages near Hoang Lien my legs were actually a bit noodley and I was so glad when our guide pointed out we'd arrived in Nam Cang. When I was researching where to stay in the northern mountains of Vietnam, I'd read about a special Riverside Lodge--and that was were we were headed for lunch.
Our welcome to the village included the usual menagerie of chickens, ducks, fish ponds, as well as the above!
Here are some of the ponds for breading fish, below,
as well as some baby chicks, which fluttered and scampered everywhere we walked. The village was a whole, and so the animals seems part of the fabric of the town in a way I'd never experienced in the U.S. They seemed to belong to no one and everyone.
Babies everywhere! I couldn't believe what beautiful clothes the villagers wore in such a remote place, where there are few roads and cars. Yet the hand-stitched embroidery was not only on skirts, but hats and purses. I love the care they put to make their world beautiful; it was breathtaking.
We passed a few of the local houses, this village a bit larger than either of the previous ones, as well as a homemade water transportation system, the bamboo 'pipes' bobbing furiously from the gush of Spring's water.
We crossed a rope bridge with tight legs and hungry bellies,
and there she was: the Lodge where we'd get food!
Oh, the food--it was so incredibly flavor-packed--and some of the best we had in the entire country. One of our constant challenges was that MSG is not only pervasive, but goes by several different words in Northern Vietnam--so it was very hard for me to communicate what I couldn't have. Did I mean seasoning? Salt? Sugar? They sometimes weren't sure, despite my hotel notes I pulled out written in Vietnamese. But here, they knew, and everything was Alie-safe!
At the door, we were asked to remove our shoes and put on shared plastic 'slippers', which instantly made us feel at ease. And the food! I don't remember all the food, but the warm cabbage and crispy mushroom spring rolls were beyond heavenly. They also served raw guava slices, which were like a dry, not-sweet apple. We couldn't stop eating and smiling, and wiping our fingers with the mini pack of Kleenex they gave us as a napkin.
Leaving lunch, we headed back into the town to meet the friendly hosts of our hike. The rain was misting and it feel wet every step we took.
In this local house, we met a grandfather who had traditional papers hundreds of years old. He held them up to the dim light proudly, and I was surprised how well preserved they were in a house that was in no way sealed or sanitary.
He also showed how he melted down ancient coins from China into jewelry; we were both kindof like . . . 'wouldn't the coins be more valuable?' in our heads, but didn't say that, of course! :)
Throughout our conversation, a variety of his relatives walked in and out, of all generations. And then he showed us, proudly, his bong.
Experiencing village life in a place with no cell phones or electricity, where everything was hewn and sewn and placed by hand, was humbling. Taking the subway to work seems a breeze in comparison.
We can't wait to visit Sapa and her surrounds again someday, maybe during a different season.
Such a stunning area of the world, and so lucky we could visit!