H'mong woman, central market, Sapa, 1995

Sapa Market

The H’mong in Sapa wear blue. They weave the cloth and dye it themselves, as evidenced by their indigo stained finger tips. I could not H'mong girls in central market stall. Sapa, 1995.take my eyes off this beautiful woman (above), though it was sad to see frenzied gringos encircle her and other H’mong men and women, lusting after souvenirs. In ’94 the H’mong were unfamiliar with bargaining. Excited tourists overwhelmed them with their need to buy H’mong necklaces, tools, earings, etc  The bewildered H’mong, sensing fast money over farm labor, often obliged.

There were no other backpackers on the dirt trail as Seth and I returned to Sapa after one of many day long hikes. Nearing town, we passed a young girl harvesting rice on the side of a steep hill. Seeing us, she stopped her backbreaking work, held her scythe aloft, in a loud clear voice declared,“Two dollah!” We nodded ‘no thanks’ and continued walking. Those days are long gone.

SuNo other gringos during a long hike. Sapa, 1995ch was Sapa in ‘94′-95. These days, the town is over run with cell phone laden tourists, internet cafes, trinket shops, pricey hotels. Where once few backpackers were to be seen, each day, hordes of gringos line up for walking tours. For their part, the H’mong have learned English and the art of the deal. One hopes they will not lose their way.