Are We Allowed to Join the Red Dzao? Sapa, Vietnam

There is a break in the heavy downpour as we straddle the motorbikes and head off into the hills of Sapa where we have planned a stay with a native family of the Red Dzao tribe. We work our way through the traffic in town and soon find ourselves on a narrow paved trail that snakes its way through the rice fields. We stop a few times to enjoy some beautiful vistas. The views are breathtaking, and the simplicity of life here strikes a cord in my heart. At least this time I can see to drive the motorcycle.

Kristoff rides with Hong, since she is the safest driver. Kristoff is a bit of a scaredy cat…He needs the best driver.

Aundrea loves zipping around in the Sapa hillsides. It is much more peaceful here in the hills than in town or the highway that we rode on yesterday. Here we just have to dodge chickens and water buffalo and motorbikes and pedestrians.

Annika loves Sapa. She tells me about how she wants to bring a child from here home to show them American things and ways, such as Barbie dolls.  


It is simply incredible to imagine that these vast rice terraces are all planted and harvested by hand. It is just an incredible amount of work. We learn that the rice is typically not grown for sale, but rather just for the sustenance of the families.  

Bjorn is David’s riding companion.   


Everywhere you go you see these ethnic women walking with their kiddos on their backs.  




A man is working his rice fields


 I think these are called water buffalo and they are very important to the rice farmers. They are very temperature sensitive and if it gets too cold they can die. These hills can sometimes get snow. If it gets too cold the animals need to be brought inside to keep warm. There does not seem to be any barn structures around. The water buffalo make for a great ride for the children.  


The children seem so happy here. There is great love between the siblings, which shows especially in this photo. Family bonds seem to be very important. 


As soon as we arrive our hostess Ly Lo starts working on our dinner. I have learned from Hong that the women in Vietnam work very hard, especially in these parts. I think the people are very strong from all the hard work and walking in the mountain terraces. Looked how she can sit here in this photo, they can literally hold this pose for hours!

Note the use of bamboo sticks for firewood. They burn relatively evenly and clean.

We all join in around the fire to watch. We have on our permethrin treated long sleeve shirts and pants to help fend off the mosquitos….no dengue fever or malaria for us! 

Bjorn finds everything interesting….


David enjoys every minute, and yes, the plastic chair holds up 220 lbs of solid muscle man…..

There is no chimney so the smoke comes out of the gables  

The washing area. The large concrete container in the back appeared to be water storage  

Up on the loft they had some stores of food. This is the kitchen on the main floor. 
Our motorbikes were parked right inside the house.   

There is a T.V. in the living area.  

There were several cute kittens milling about in the kitchen. It was tempting for the kids to pick them up, but we have a no touching animals rule on this trip so no one gets rabies….. The kittens loved hanging out right next to the fire.
Our accommodations are not particularly air tight, although they are waterproof. Since they are not airtight it also means they are not mosquito proof, and this area is known to have malaria….which means the boys need to keep taking their malaria pills despite the rash. Bjorn’s rash on his face seems to hurt only when he is on the motorbike and the wind whips it. The rooms come equipped with mosquito nets to fend off the little buggers (they really are buggers). Who knows if they have dengue fever in these parts. It is interesting to note how the structure is built. The guest rooms are pretty new and clean.  


Our hostess Ly Lo with her youngest of three children.  She has a beautiful smile!


 Many hours before we arrived at our homestay our lovely hostess Ly Lo May had a fire burning underneath this cauldron…..some kind of witches brew, we wonder…..Nope, it’s a special medicine bath that contains many different medicinal plants that have been simmering for hours. She collected the plants from the jungle, a very special talent that is passed from one generation to the next. When I ask what plants are used, the only answer I get is more than 20 “special” medicine plants. I guess it doesn’t matter. I am not a botanist and wouldn’t know the names of the plants anyway…..just hope it’s not hallucinogenic….they grow marijuana in these parts….


Ly Lo then carries the medicinal water into these wooden barrels, and adds cooler water to make the temperature just right. Then we gingerly step in and relax….David is super cosy in his barrel…..he barely fits in……We are warned not to stay in longer than 15 minutes since we may become dizzy. 

The medicine bath is used to cure many ailments, so who knows what unknown diseases I have that are being cured as I relax and soak in the concoction. I can’t quite describe the scent of the bath water; it is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Once we are done with the bath we are not to shower off. The medicine must stay on you…..wonder what substances are topically leeching into my body…..I have to say the bath was really nice, and I am glad we chose to stay with Ly Lo and her family so we could experience this special treat. 


After the bath we have dinner. Ly Lo and her sister-in-law have prepared some food do us. We start off with some delicious French fries. The dinner is set up out on the porch. The food is great. We share our dinner with a young lady from San Francisco named Ariel.


We are exhausted so we head to bed early. We wake up to an incessant downpour. But sleeping beauty doesn’t seem to mind!

Our breakfast pancake cook is Ly Lo’s middle child.  

It’s a little chilly in the morning so the family lights a fire in the main living area.  All I can think is it must be freezing in here in the winter!

In the morning Ly Lo’s sister-in-law comes to greet us again. She has her kiddos with her.   

Little — was a delight!  
A neighbor walks past with his water buffalo. The rain does not stop his activities  

We have an impromptu dress up party…..

Little Ling is cooperative for photos. She is soooooo cute!

Annika gets a turn holding little Ling. Take a look at all the details on the clothes. They are all appliquéd by hand!


Here is the whole party!


David is looming over our hostess. She is pretty tiny, but wait a minute she is probably not much shorter than me.

Little Ling puts her mother’s pack on her back and starts giggling out of control 
This is our host and hostess, grandma, sis-in-law, kids and nieces/nephews. The teenaged son is missing.     

And so we leave our beautiful family and amazing homestay experience behind. I wonder if I will ever come back. Maybe someday. But for the rest of the day we have some more motorbike touring to do, some cooking lessons, and a dreaded sleeper bus ride back to Hanoi….you know, the dangerous bus ride…..the one where the wheels are supposed to fall off!   

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