E: Paddy Fields and the Indigo People of Sapa, Vietnam

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Of the places I visited during the winter break one of the most touching locations I had the pleasure of witnessing was the Sapa district in northern Vietnam. Although weather wise the coldest of all my destinations, I was pleasantly warmed by the scenes throughout Sapa town and the surrounding villages.

People here are poor, and although I have witnessed poverty before I’d never seen people living off log fires and mainly consuming food they’d produced themselves. Various ethnic minorities inhabit the area including the Black Hmong, Dao and Phu Lo people. Many of these speak languages other than Vietnamese. The changes brought by tourism are noticeable, but no so prominent to ruin the area’s authenticity. Many families have converted from farming to selling souvenirs with examples including, indigo scarves and various carved stone objects. It was refreshing to see the majority of what was being sold out of houses and on the street, were products produced by the people themselves.

Exceedingly obvious is the ethnic minorities cheekily ripping tourists off, our guide gave us an indication of what we should be paying. Unfortunately I found it difficult to stop the woman selling me an indigo scarf, purchased as a gift, from overcharging me by two pounds while she was sat smiling bleakly underneath a tin roof, without heating in the middle of winter. I didn’t have it in me to refuse, especially when I thought about how little two pounds is to me, compared to what this woman could use it for.

If you plan to visit be wary not to buy from the local village kids, as although they’ll give you cheaper prices than the adults, this encourages them to skip school and continue attempting to make money from western tourists doing no good for their future. Besides any money lost whilst buying gifts I definitely made back on the food, where else can you get 73p beer? Apart from the eerily lit church located centrally in Sapa town it seems due to the French’s presence in Vietnam they left some cultural characteristics such as aspects of religion behind, our guide told us that many of the villagers refused to use contraception as they were supposedly catholic, yet still maintained some Buddhist beliefs.

Breathtaking scenery in the nearby mountains means the majority of our trip was hiking and admiring the views, with the occasional stop at some of the local villagers’ homes where our guide allowed us to ask questions, try some local tobacco and test our skill of using various farming utensils. I’d like to return to Sapa, 2 days wasn’t enough. If returning I would visit again in September during the harvest season, where apparently all the rice fields evolve into a glowing gradient of yellow. The trip ended with a farewell to our guide and boarding the night train (which one day I’m sure will become my permanent type of accommodation) back to Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.

 

E: South Pacific

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Despite the unrealistic surroundings, another factor which amazed me on Pulau Tioman was how the colours shifted during different points in the day. Early evening was uniquely special. The sun peeking through the mountains left beautiful reflections across the coast. Rays of light danced behind the palms eventually finding themselves across the golden sand. The photos taken in those two days required little to no editing, Malaysia as a whole continues to be ridiculously photogenic.

We spent our time based in a small village surrounded by locals in little tin shacks. Our beach huts blended in perfectly to the rustic feel of the place. To my surprise not only were they air-conditioned the restaurants nearby even had Wi-Fi. We were in the middle of nowhere yet somehow there’s still a wireless hotspot. Is it really that hard to get off the grid in the 21st century?

Back in Singapore we’ve been facing groggy weather. Yesterday morning I woke up to the biggest thunderstorm I’d ever experienced. Was pretty exciting. Lessons are proving difficult and last years late nights stumbling around clubs have evolved into far duller late nights in the study area listening to Theme Park, Winehouse and Jessie Ware on repeat. Most of the photos of me were taken by Alex, so many thanks to her. Unfortunately she can’t return the thanks for the photos of her as she really can’t take a bad picture so no credit should be directed at me. Enjoy the photos and the last set of Tioman pictures should be up soon!

IMG_8955You getting this? IMG_8460 IMG_8633 IMG_8912Alex got so much swag I don’t know where she keeps it allIMG_8929IMG_8766One of my favourite shots from the trip
IMG_8406Swimming Buds
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C: We found a Sofa

IMG_0172 A while back me and some flatmates went for a walk, and in the middle of this beautiful rapeseed field we found an abandoned sofa. My camera was at hand so what to do seemed obvious. Made a good profile picture anyway, we think the image above would make a great promotional shot for a sitcom. IMG_0196 IMG_0242 IMG_0235 IMG_0091 IMG_0102 IMG_0121

Village Life part 2

No clue what this village is called, apparently my great grandfather was born in one of the small houses I visited. Was very quiet and calm. Can imagine it must be beautiful in the spring and winter. The drive there was magical, true cypriot hilly countryside. Next time will have to explore the surrounding area.  

Village Life

Life in the village is the dream, people here don’t seem to suffer from ‘old age syndrome’ no matter what the age they keep themselves busy and it’s refreshing to see. My short two day break was spent running away from snakes, eating mountain berries and throwing ice cold water over my cousins. All good fun. I wish I grew up in a village, having the mountains as your back garden as a kid must have been the best playground you could imagine. But wait don’t think it gets boring when you become a teenager, oh no Kakopetria (the village) has a club. You heard me a club, in a mountain village. Of course me and my cousins did not require any alcohol or a dance floor to bring the party to the streets with the use of a blackberry curve’s speaker….. Coz that’s just how we rollA small cottage tucked away in the trees. On the first moutain hike where we managed to walk into snakesAfter about an hour of convincing these weren’t toxic I learnt to love wild mountain berriesNot particularly historic but a scenic bridge neverthelessThe village has a plentiful supply of water from underground springsCloud covering the mountainsGot to meet the family hamsterThe village at nightApple anyone?

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