Hi there from Sapa in Northern Vietnam. We have spent two days trekking from hill tribe village to hill tribe village and it has been great.
One lady and her friend started chatting to us outside the hotel and while we were wandering around Sapa Village before joining the walking tour. Unbeknown to me this is their ploy - I was now her "friend" for the rest of the day. But she was lovely - friendly, not hassling, spoke good English, was happy to chat about her culture and lifestyle and happy to pose for photos.
This is the traditional band of followers on the walk - Hmong women - including my new found friend. Their husband's bring them into Sapa in the early morning and they walk home with a tourist group hoping to make some sales at lunchtime - our group was not that successful for them as I was the only one to buy.
My new 'friend' stayed close by all the way and helped me when the track got a bit rough - the helping hand was always welcome and I did want to buy.
As you can see even baby comes along for the ride.
They didn't put any pressure on until we sat down to lunch in her village - this is the traditional time to purchase. And by the time we got to her village I had decided what I wanted to buy - believe it or not a set of traditional clothing - a child's as it was smaller to pack and old rather than new. But as I suspected she didn't have that in her basket as most tourists buy the embroidered bags - trust me to be different. But while we had lunch she was happy to go off
and get what I wanted!!!! They it was gentle bargaining time - she was very sweet and a pleasure to buy from.
Below is another Hmong lady sitting outside our hotel sewing while she waits for a tourist who might like to buy from her. We got talking to her and did buy a couple of hand embroidered bags from her. She is stitching the insert that goes into the sleeve of her outfit. No time is wasted - she has a portable stitching project just like us! And she was happy to show and to explain what she was doing - we learnt so much from these ladies. I guess most tourists don't that much interest in their handwork.
Her friend was joining long pieces of hemp fibre together ready to be woven into fabric and dyed with indigo back in the village - these women worked away at this as they walked along - they started the day with a large hank of fibre hanging around her shoulders and by the end of the morning it had all been joined and wound into her hand neatly. She too was happy to be photographed and explained and demonstrated the process of joining the fibre lengths together.
When we stopped on the walk to the village for drinks the women would settle down to embroidery - there was no hassling to buy while we were walking - just when we got to their village at lunchtime. Such patience as we left Sapa at 9.30 and got to their village - Lao Chai - at about 1.00pm.
Well that is the day with the Hmong ladies - they certainly added another level of interest and a personal touch to the walk.