Having visited Ta Phin and experienced the company of the local women on the previous day, we were better prepared for our walk from Lao Chai to Ta Van. That is, we knew we would have company and we knew we’d better have some small notes in our wallets for the obligatory ‘shopping’ that takes place before leaving.
The first village was aanout 10km out of Sapa. The windy hilly road brought us to a vantage point from where we could look down the valley. It was one of the most beautiful natural sights I have ever seen – green rice fields dotted with small rustic dwellings and the Muong Hoa River flowing through it. A path connected several small villages. It was breathtaking to behold.
As the van pulled up at Lao Chai, the ladies were waiting and excitedly pointing to the individual tourists they had decided to walk with. My new friend was a Rad Dao lady named May, who spoke softly but with very good English and had a beautiful smile. Two young Dao girls walked with us but were too shy to speak to me. The other members of my group were all followed by Black Hmong women, who were also chattering away in relatively easy to understand English, all learnt from conversations with tourists.
The narrow road between the villages had been paved by the government some years earlier, possibly to assist the tourism that now brings much needed revenue into the region. We passed rice fields, ducks, buffalo, hemp and gardens bearing tropical fruit trees. Upon leaving Lao Chai, we completed our ‘shopping’ with the ladies who had walked with us and headed for Ta Van. We had walked less than fifty metres before we found ourselves with a new group of walking companions – the ladies from the next village. We were going to have to shop all over again.
We stopped at a local house for a meal, and as we did the rains came down, quite heavily. Our group of followers were sheltering with us just a few metres away. So we went through the shopping process one more time, using what little money remained after our earlier transactions. They left us, happy with the income they had earned for the day.