As if being set in a terrace laced village high in the mountains of Northern Vietnam wasn’t far removed enough already, I venture farther. Beyond the tracks of any road. Beyond the comfortable reach for many of the other daring travellers with whom I made the overnight train trip to the city of Sapa, followed by a long hike into the countryside to find our tribal homestay.
When all paths disappear, I tread carefully between the steep rice paddy staircases. Pigs lay in the mud taking in the warmth of the sun. Water buffalos trim leaves from the tall, thick bamboo brush. Ducklings waggle along afraid to jump in the murky waters that hold rice when the season is in bloom. Villagers pass by me in their traditional H’mong dress and rubber boots. They smile widely, multicoloured teeth gapped here and there. They all say “Hello, where are you from? How old are you?” It doesn’t matter that our communication may be limited. They are warm, friendly and obviously hard working. I am on their lands now.