We wanted to do another trek after Mt Fansipan, this time amongst rice terraces and a visit to minority villages. We would have liked to have done a home stay, but we didn’t have enough time. We got in touch with Sapa Sisters, who connected us up with Little Chi, our guide for the day. Sapa Sisters was started by five friends (one Swedish artist and four young Hmong women) in 2009 with the idea of creating a self-sustaining venture that will provide decent-paying jobs for Hmong women. Operated by young females only with no middleman or agent, they work directly with tourists and design individual itineraries depending on interest, fitness level, available time etc. Home stays are popular as are multi-day treks.
Little Chi is delightful, and indeed little! She has a lovely smile and a sweet voice. Little Chi lives in Hau Thao, a Black Hmong village about 20 minutes by motorcycle from Sapa down in the valley. Being Hmong, she speaks her own language in addition to Vietnamese, and she’s taught herself English. Hmong people make up approximately 1% of the ethnic groups in northern Vietnam. You will also find them in Southern China, Laos and Thailand.
Little Chi is only 18, but she is already married. She got married just last month. It was not something she wanted to do, and she did say no initially, but it’s not something that’s really up to her it seems. Her parents wanted her to get married, and the boy she married was really into her apparently. Realistically, she had the choice of running away and leaving her family, or oblige. At least the boy she married is 19, and not some hideous older man old enough to be her father. According to Chi, the Vietnamese government has made marrying under 21 illegal, but with the correct bribe, they will turn a blind eye. What a surprise!
Now that she is married, Chi is expected to help her husband on the farm. Her mother-in-law isn’t terribly excited about her being a guide, for fear she might run away from her son presumably, but strong-willed Chi seems to want to continue. So she splits her time between farming and guiding.
It is obvious that Chi enjoys being a guide, and is enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It was an absolute pleasure spending the day with her. The walk was very pleasant, scenery beautiful, and with Chi’s help, we got a glimpse into the lives of the Hmong and the Dzay people.