Saturday, September 01, 2007



the last time i went to sapa, the remote north west vietnam town famous for its colorful minority hill tribes and the breathtaking mountain views right out of shangri-la , i took a train from hanoi to vietnam - china border town , lao cai and took a taxi from here up the winding but fairly wide and good road to sapa town. That was three years ago, or was it four?

several things i particularly remembered from that trip include a japanese guy trying to get a hmong girl to his hotel room in the middle of the night somewhere in the town square , a vietnamese guy hitching a ride into my cabin (second /sleeper class) from one station for free and me snapping away happily photos of hmong,and other assorted tribes in their crappy hill villages and corn farms, on winding path accompanied by their pigs and buffaloes only to discover later that my camera had no film in it.

so this time i came fully prepared - with a digital camera instead of my old olympus OM1 SLR , the first slr in olympus camera series which i always used since I bought it a very very long time ago -second hand - in hobart tasmania while i was in my matriculation college which seemed like a hundred years ago and still treasured although the light meter isn't working anymore because ants got into it, pissed their formic acid and short circuited the thing...the reason why ants got into it was because one time i put packets of dates together with the camera in the luggage on the way back from my first trip to mecca.

that was quite a trip, for one thing we went with pak ibrahim the late father of ex dpm anwar ibrahim ...but that's a story for another time...and a little aside. i saw that anwar ibrahim is in facebook! isn't that amazing?. one of these days i 'm gonna check if dr m is included as one of his friends... hmmm

and anyway, coming back to sapa, this time we went by car right from hanoi. which isn't the normal way most people do because the road for most part is really really crappy...narrow, bumpy poorly tarred and winding like crazy in some parts. think of the old road to cameron highland and make it worse by a couple of magnitude and you get the idea. the good thing is there were not too many cars on the road.

although it is only about 300km or so from hanoi, the trip took more than six hours including a few stops for lunch, and piss break by the roadside . 'Sing a song' as my vietnamese friends termed it for some unexplained reason. and what randy goats my friends are! they chattered the whole trip about nothing but women. young minority girls to be precise. and every little town we passed they would point out ah that hotel has some of the best minority massage can do A to Z. (as they termed it).and you can have as young as fifteen! is that legal in vietnam? i asked. no they said. ah well i said. in malaysia we have lorry drivers raping their daughters as young as nine years old. it's not legal either i said. and we jabberred on and on about that sort of thing. and when we passed the province where the present top boss the sec gen of the communist party and the president of vietnam (who is a tay minority) come from they mentioned the wellknown and widespread rumor that he is actually the son of the late uncle ho himself. but ho chi minh never married i said. that didn't stop anybody from fucking they countered. fair enough.

...and so i spent a couple of days in sapa and nearby vin bai province . trekked into some hmong and dao minority villages. visited a tay village and had a whale of a time in their community hall eating their traditional buffalo dishes and singing and dancing their traditional dances and drinking their traditional rice wine. lucky for me the wine looked identical to water so i just filled my glass with la vie the most commonly available bottled water in vietnam. my vietnamese friends know that i don't drink and don't eat pig but everything else is go , so to speak.

and here's the thing. the moment anybody knows that i'm a muslim they start asking whether i have four wives. seems like the only thing most people know about islam is that you can have four wives (lucky me) and you can not eat pig. (and these days add one more...we are mad terrorists). one time i was traveling in a van with my chinese friend to a remote place somewhere near urumqi , and these travellers were heatedly discussing something and i asked my good chinese friend what were they talking about. and he said they were saying the reason why muslims don't eat pig is because they originate from pigs . interesting theory i commented. and i added, by the same reasoning, since the chinese eat everything except dog shit they must have originated from dog shit? and my good chinese friend said, shall i translate that to them? and i said better not. i don't want to be thrown out into the ravine....

Hahaha. I'm beginning to suspect that you're an anthropologist! Good to have you back alive and not barbecued and eaten by some natives.

funny you said that about anthropologist...humans are the strangest creatures on earth...i've met quite a few interesting ones in my life.
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