It was 6.00AM and i had just arrived in Sapa with the nightbus coming from Hanoi. I met Zheng and Zu in front of my hotel. They were waiting for the tourists to arrive to sell them their handmade souvenirs. They approached me and I hired them as guides to bring me to the little villages spread around the peaceful mountains and rice terraces of Sapa.

We decided to meet the following day, same time same place. Zheng didn't have a cellphone but Zu did . I asked her what her number was and if i could text her but she said i would have to call her because she couldn't read or write, she showed me a piece of paper with her number written down. [*The illiteracy rate is very high in Sapa, especially among women.]

As promised we met bright and early the morning after and we started walking through the mountains. I asked them a million questions on the road. I asked them about their lives, their habits, the way they see the world. They responded to every question politely and enthusiastically. They were happy to share their stories with me. 

Zheng & Zu are both Hmong people. The Hmong are an ethnic group that lives in the mountain areas of Vietnam, Laos,China and Thailand.

During our walk I was trying to ask them the 5 questions I usually ask  (What is Beauty - What is the most beautiful thing in the world for you, etc etc) but after many attempts I realized that I couldn't get my answers: to them the concept of Beauty didn't even really exist. They explained to me that all it mattered to them was Health, kindness and simple as that.  These women don't care about aesthetic, appearances. After a while Zheng picked up a few leaves from the side of the path and made a heart shaped object with them , she handed to me and said "Heart is what's important".

How beautiful is that?! 


" I learnt english from the tourists. I like listening to where they come from. I never been any other place than Sapa"


"My village is 3 and a half hours away by walk. I come to Sapa Village everyday to sell my bracalets and my scarves so my family can have enough food and a scooter and my 3 children can go to school. Sometimes I can get a ride on the motorbike but sometime I have to walk, some days both ways. Everybody goes to the main Village almost everyday, the old people too. Many go to the new market to sell their products".


Using Format