This is part 2 of a two part post about my homestay in Sapa. If you haven’t already, you should read Day 1 about this excellent adventure!
As a way of background, my buddy Taylor and I did a homestay in SaPa Vietnam with the Black Hmong Tribe. The first day was quite exhausting and we were subjected to eating rats and forced to drink nail polish remover!
Okay — I’m being dramatic. We weren’t forced to do anything but we did eat rat and we did drink this fermented rice concoction that tasted like nail polish remover. As I said before, you can enjoy all these bits by clicking here.
Now, back to the post. Here is what went down for the remainder of our homestay in SaPa!
Back To Reality – The Homestay In SaPa
About 3am rolls around and they (Moo and her family) are back at it again, working. We hear motorbikes starting up as the husband takes off for the main town to work. This noise and commotion went on for about another 3 to 4 hours until I managed to get out of bed.
My eyes were crusty and my throat as dry as sand. I felt like I didn’t sleep an ounce, but at that point I didn’t care. I had accepted that it was going to be rough and it was all part of the experience.
The second day, Moo’s cousin took us into another village where we could explore some more of the rice fields and get a better view of the rolling mountains.
We trekked down some muddy paths and I managed to only fall once while this little woman guiding in front, carrying a child on her back, did not even slip the entire time. It’s like all the women here have superhuman hiking powers.
Two hours of hiking down into the one of the valleys and the air started to clear up a bit. This is when we could finally see what everyone raves about.
Beautiful mountains covered in these crazy rolling designs that I imagine have been developed for hundreds, if not thousands years. The air was clean and crisp and a constant drizzle began to wet our clothes.
After 2 hours of hiking we finally reached a little hut where we sat down for a delicious bowl of Pho. I swear, there is nothing better when you are tired and wet than a giant, steaming bowl of Pho.
We recouped a bit and set off for the remainder of the hike. We walked on some crazy bridges that felt like they were going to fall apart and alongside a slippery mountainside with breathtaking views that spanned the entire valley. I can only imagine what it looks like in the summertime when it is clear (most people come in the summer for this very reason).
Moo’s cousin signaled to us that it was time to head back. Damn. The part where we have to hike all way back up. Hiking down was easy.
At this point, we were cold, tired, and soaking wet, but we trudged on. I had to just keep looking at the little woman in front of me, who hadn’t even broken a sweat, to remind myself that I was being a little whiny bitch.
Taylor and I kept mentioning that we were happy to take as much time as possible because the later we got back, the less time we would have to spend figuring out how to kill more time until dinner.
Well, suffice to say that we didn’t need to brainstorm that much because the moment we got back we hung up our soaking gear, and dozed off immediately.
Lo and behold, when we woke up, they were preparing dinner for us! YES!
The second night they cooked us up something a bit different. We had the rice of course, but then they also deep fried some tofu and boiled down some tomatoes and made this awesome sauce. They steamed some veggies that they picked right outside and fried up some noodles.
Once again, we feasted on that shit like no feast before. We piled the rice on those plates, topped it with some delicious tofu, and poured on heaps of steaming green veggies.
SUSTENANCE! Our bellies were full and our minds were happy. Nothing screams authentic like eating homemade Vietnamese food with kitchen tools that looked like they came straight out of the stone age.
Earlier, Taylor and I had both agreed that we were absolutely not participating in any “Chunkah” (AKA drinking the nail polish remover called “Happy Water”) that evening as we were both shot from the day’s hike and the previous night’s shenanigans. Even Moo had mentioned that she would not be having any drinks for the evening as her teeth were hurting too much.
Well, those promises lasted about 17 seconds once Mr. Moo broke out his classic, dirty ol’ 2 liter Dasani water bottle and started pouring us all shots.
“Okay, okay. Look, we’ll have one or two, but we really don’t want to feel bad tomorrow. We need to have energy for the hike back,” we reasoned with her. Mr. Moo poured another and we smiled and clinked our clay glasses together once more.
That familiar feeling started to creep over my body. That odd, fuzzy, warm, happy feeling. A smile crawled onto my face and I noticed a similar reaction amongst the group of us.
“Hey it’s not so bad! We can drink a bit more of this stuff and we’ll be alright,” I thought. I could tell Taylor was game too. And at this point, Moo had put back three of those suckers and I don’t think she could even feel her teeth anymore, so she was in.
Well, guess what? We finished that damn bottle of happy poison, or whatever you call it, and had ourselves some funny conversation.
Eventually, Moo asked us to write in her coveted journal and we were honored. It was kind of a funny situation just based on the fact that she cannot read English. Therefore, you’re really writing to future travelers who will soon be asked to do the same. We wrote some entertaining stuff for our future readers and mentioned how grateful and hospitable Moo had been for our homestay.
The night grew late as Taylor and I talked around the fire about life goals, tattoos, and everything in between. It was moments like these where I really began to appreciate the absence of technology and the meaning behind “being present.”
Watching this family work together and live this slower pace of life made me realize how often we seek out constant stimulation. It was a very humbling experience and really made me think about how you can live a fulfilling life without being constantly entertained. If we all took a day or two and forgot our phones at home and turned off the T.V. we could learn a bit more about our behavior and appreciate some of the nuances in our lives that are often missed out on.
When I’m back home I’m constantly thinking about tomorrow, next week, or even next year, and I have really struggled with appreciating what is right in front of me.
What is important is today.
I’ve since challenged myself to take a moment everyday to stop and notice my surroundings. To take a deep breath of air, smell what’s around me, and really think about the different sensations that I’m experiencing in that exact moment. It’s been really therapeutic and helps bring me back down to earth. After all, I know as a people we all have problems, but in the grand scheme of things, we are a speck of dust in an ever expanding universe that doesn’t care about us.
What matters is what’s right in front of you.
I challenge you to take 20 seconds out of your day to stop, take a moment, and observe your surroundings. What do you smell? How does the air feel on your skin? What can you see? How bright is that sun? Think about these sensations as you experience them. I promise it’ll actually be quite fun.
This trip really had a profound effect on me and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to experience it. I encourage anyone who hasn’t already, to try and get out there and disconnect with the rest of the world for a bit. Get off the cell phones, the T.V.’s, and the computers and get back to yourself.
Okay — enough of that deep, existential shit Harrison. Back to the homestay.
In the morning, we got up and breakfast was being prepared. Now this shit was crazy and I’m sure they don’t eat this themselves, but rather created it for their two hungry American guests.
So they took a pan and poured a shit load of oil into it and got it nice and hot. Then they poured in about five scrambled eggs mixed with green onion and deep fried them until they were golden brown. Next, they took two giant baguettes, sliced them open and stuffed them full with the eggs they just deep fried.
Oh, but wait. There’s more.
Then they took the egg-stuffed baguettes and deep fried those too! I looked like a starving dog as I watched this beauty unfold.
We sat down and ate this incredible sandwich creation that I wish I had discovered earlier in life (probably good thing I haven’t because I’d be obese by now). It was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and had delicious, steaming hot egg oozing out the edges. These people know how to make some goddamn delicious sandwiches.
After consuming what I think could pass for a whole days worth of food in about ten minutes, we had enough energy to hike our asses up Everest. So we set off. We said our goodbyes and thanked Moo and headed back to town.
The hike down wasn’t really bad at all. We stuck to the main path and soaked up the last bits of scenery that we could. Our nice guide bid us farewell and the homestay in SaPa had come to an end.
If you’ve ever had a homestay experience in any other country, I’d love to hear about it. Many people can come away from these trips with different nuggets of wisdom so it’s great to hear some of the other things that people have done.
Let’s hear your thoughts on being present and why or why not you think it’s important today in our society of hyper-activity and constant stimulation.