Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Speciality in Sapa

Not only famous for its natural beauty and landscapes, cool and fresh air, Sapa is best known for specialities that have attracted more and more tourists. 
Sapa is home to sub-tropical vegetables: white cauliflower, reb beet, chayote… Boiled chayote consumed with sesame is a must to enjoy for visitors. Remember, it should be eaten while it’s hot and it’ll be tasteless if it’s undercooked or overcooked. “Ngồng” or vegetable stock is always sold like “hot cake”. There might be garlic or chayote stock and it’s much tastier if it’s cooked with meat.

Dry mushroom can be found all 4 seasons. It swells in water but it retains its original flavour. Dry mushroom can be cooked with meat or dry squid.

“Pork cắp nách” or the pig carried under armpit is good. It’s called “cắp nách” because it might just round 10kg. It is “home pig” but it’s raised in the field or in the forest. So its meat is very delicious and fatless. Such a pig, killed and spiced before frying, is very tasty and the meat is tender but sweetish.

Located high in the mountain, but Sapa is well-known for its fish caught from stream Mường Hoa and Mường Tiên. Sapa fish varies in species: white fish, black fish, even spoted fish. Normally, Sapa fish is not big, just as a finger or so and it doesn’t get stinky. It can be barbecued or fried. Sapa salmon is originally imported from Finland and Russia, raised in streams. Nothing better than a hot-pot on cold days in Sapa.

Thu Hà

Home-stay Tour in Stilt Houses

For the Thai people in Tay Bac (the northwest region in Vietnam), “home-stay guest in stilt house” refers to distinguished guests from far hamlets who visit their houses. However, “home-stay guest in stilt house” means a unique tourism product for the Thai people in Lac Hamlet, Mai Chau District, Hoa Binh Province. 

Visiting the stilt house owned by Ha Van Minh for the first time, we had a familiar and warm feeling. The floor of the house is very large and made from bamboo with blankets and pillows neatly arranged. It was the place for us to sleep at night. The space under the floor is for having meals and drinking tea. While inviting us for a cup of hot tea, the host said: “Let me prepare a meal for you with Mai Chau glutinous rice, boiled chicken, carp-bamboo sprout soup, smoked buffalo meat and alcohol, all right?” The mere thought of this meal made our mouths water.  

Stilt houses in Lac Hamlet are considered “hotels” in the forest.

Touring the hamlet by bike is a real interesting experience for foreign tourists.

Recording images of the hamlet.

Tourists buy souvenirs in Lac Hamlet as presents for their relatives and friends.

Tourists are interested in Ao com made by the Thai people.

Diverse colourful souvenirs are displayed for sale.

           In Lac Hamlet, there are 25 stilt houses for tourism which were built in a chessboard architectural style. Each house was numbered from 1 to 25. Payment for an overnight stay in the stilt house is 50,000-70,000VND/person. Tourist activities bring the main income for the Thai people in Lac Hamlet.
At sunset, it was slightly cold and we took a stroll on the path in the hamlet to enjoy the sweet scent from the paddy fields and buy some goods from the Thai people. In front of each stilt house, people put some small tables for displaying their brocaded products, such as purses, handbags and Pieu scarves (a traditional scarf of the Thai people). They also hung an abundance of long cloth rolls and Ao com (a short traditional shirt of the Thai People) with distinctive patterns. In addition, unique products like wooden bells for buffalos, bamboo flutes, bows and cross-bows and knives were also displayed for sale. All the products were hand made by the Thai people.

Here, we felt very comfortable to select some items to buy while the owners were absorbed in their work by the looms. Brocade weaving is the traditional craft of the Thai that creates cultural characters that fascinate tourists going to Lac Hamlet. An unusual cultural feature of the Thai people is clearly seen through their costumes: a scarf that crosses the head, a blue shirt, and a black floor length skirt. Girls often wear a brocaded piece that crosses her chest that helps them look graceful.

Ha Thi Muoi shows tourists her techniques on weaving brocade in her stilt house.

When night falls, tourists can participate in a Sap dance performance with hospitable and graceful girls in the hamlet.

Tourists enjoy a traditional dance of the Thai people in Lac Hamlet.

When night fell, Mai Chau became boisterous with drumbeats performed by the hamlet’s artistic band. Not long before, Minh – the owner of the stilt house where we stayed - had beaten the drum to signal that a Sap (bamboo pole) dance performance would be held at his stilt house. In Lac Hamlet, all families can organize a bamboo pole dance performance, but they hold it in shifts. Sometimes, the performance is held at the family that has a large number of guests. A dancing team often includes beautiful girls who learned dancing, singing and even a foreign language to receive tourists. Each performance often ends with a Sap dance and girls inviting guests to drink Can wine. We all were drawn in by the lyrics of the songs and dances of the Thai girls.

When the party ended, it was cold so we curled up in a Sui blanket made from the bark of an Antiarias tree to have a good sleep right on the floor of the stilt house. It was a real interesting experience to have a home-stay tour in a stilt house in Lac Hamlet. 
Story: Thong Thien - Photos: Viet Cuong - Thong Thien

Ham Long - Village of Artists

The village of artists, called Ham Long, is located near the windy Sai Gon River, 10km from the hub of Ho Chi Minh City. It has this name because most of the owners of houses in the village are artists.

Visiting the village, tourists have a chance to behold houses built in the traditional architectural style of the Vietnamese people, such as a Hue Ruong house, a house-on-stilts of the Muong ethnic people and ancient houses of the South. Each house is an artistic architectural complex that is designed beautifully by its owner. 

A garden in the shade of trees overlooks the Sai Gon River.

The house owned by artist Nguyen Hoai Huong built in the style of a Hue garden house.

The most striking feature of the village probably is the houses owned by painters Nguyen Hoai Huong and Ly Khac Nhu. The house of Nguyen Hoai Huong was built in the style of a Hue Ruong house that looks solemn and private while the house of Ly Khac Nhu looks rustic with a simple leave-covered roof. The artists arrange many works of art and unique miniatures in their living spaces, such as paintings, statues, pottery products, a small lake and rock-works. Even the work place of the artists is an interesting destination for tourists. 
Some artistic spaces in Ham Long Village.

The village boasts many beautiful architectural constructions. These include the house owned by painter Thanh Chau with oil paintings of a war theme, the house by painter Ho Huu Thu with abstract lacquer paintings and the one by artist Duong Dinh Hung which is famous for a garden of statues. Each has its own beauty, showing the style and characters of each artist.

Another interesting feature of this village is that all the houses are not separated from each other by high walls but by low fences with entrances. Therefore, these houses seem to be connected naturally like in rural areas that give a close and warm feeling.

Foreign tourists visit the house owned by painter Ly Khac Nhu.

Coming here, tourists not only enjoy unique artworks but also the beautiful scenery of the Sai Gon River at sunrise or sunset with a pure and cool atmosphere.