Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Lies in the northernmost Vietnam, Ha Giang appears in mind as a spectacular land with colossal layered mountains, sheer cliffs, dizzy hairpin turns and specially, strange colorful minor tribes. Breathtaking scenery and unusual culture that are not less than in Sapa. But due to craggy terrain and hard roads, tourism has not developed in here. However, just because of this, the traditional lifestyle has been kept almost completely. Locals still like wearing their traditional costumes, speaking their language, including kids.
Ha Giang recently has been well-known in Vietnam for “tam giac mach” flower farms, majestic Hoang Su Phi terrace field, Dong Van stone plateau – hidden Himalaya and dramatic zigzag roads. It also become a challenging destination for motorcycling adventure in northern Vietnam. Even so, custom and belief, another charming point hidden in just locals here may be not known a lot.
Roam around rotating markets, observe inhabitants trading, and talk to them, you will find many interesting things. Truly, many minor people in Ha Giang are not good at Vietnamese, and English is impossible. But it is possible to hear strange and funny stories from someone, who look more modern than many other native people but really love this land.
As many travelers and residents who has become fond of this region commend, market in this highland is cultural market, not commercial market.
Going to a rotating market is a pleasure. So they wear really beautifully with colorful long dresses, brocade shoes and jewelry.
Many locals live on high and steep mountains that are far away from central market. Poor traffic infrastructure, most roads are soil trails, and needy life condition, numerous inhabitants move by walking. Not only that, they have to pass craggy cliffs and beaten trails. So they get up extremely early to be in time the rotating market, which is only held on a few fixed days in a week or month.
Some women inhabit far away on abrupt mountains, they have to cross rocky cliffs and steep path. Dressing nice clothes is inconvenient. Thus, they usually wear normal clothes as walking through mountains. When approaching the market, they just change their clothes into pretty costumes.
Today, the life is better. Locals also use motorbike for moving. But in many upright mountain area, there is no paved road for motorbike and people usually hike on soil trails.
Going to the market is simply to meet, talk and exchange small stories between people of different areas.
Early morning go to market, they carry under their arm a chicken or a small pig. It is good if they sell things that they have brought along. But it’s still ok if they cannot sell anything. They still come back home with a happy face, happy mind and without a shred of thought. Even if they sell something, they can spend all money from the sale to drink wine and return home in a blind drunk state. Wine in Ha Giang is primarily homemade corn wine. To men of ethnic minorities, getting drunk is the happiest time.
There is a funny case sometimes happening is told by the locals. An indigenous man was going to buy wine. He would taste wine at all wine stalls, from beginning to end of market. Specially, he had got drunk before deciding to buy wine at some stall. Did not need to know whether he tended to buy wine or just pretending in order to be drunk, sellers still let these strange customers taste wine in an easy-going way.
Ha Giang – the remote region of Vietnam with unaffected ethnic minorities is uncharted much. But once you overcome a hard adventure to Ha Giang, then amazed at this unusual rocky mountain area, you will remember a lot.
By Xuan Tran (Kimina) – ActiveTravel Asia