This morning we piled on the bus and began our trek out to Hoa Binh, a province which is two hours southwest of Ha Noi and is the home of the following ethnic minorities: Hmong, Muong, Dzao, and Thai. There we visited a Muong Hill Tribal Village. The area has changed a lot since the largest hydropower plant in Southeast Asia was built, creating a lake in the Da River. We made a brief stop at the Hoa Binh Dam to check out the reservoir.
Then we continued on toward the village where we were greeted enthusiastically by townspeople.
Although there was an obvious language barrier we were still able to converse with the women about where we were from, our ages, and our family dynamics. We walked through the beautiful village and got a glimpse inside many of the different dwellings. Lunch was served by a local family in their home. For the meal, we all sat together on the floor picnic-style, eating at one large, communal table.
The meal started out with a tasting of their locally made rice wine. The host family then prepared a delicious meal which included the rice we were able to husk ourselves using their handmade machinery. We were also served vegetables that were grown right in the village, along with various other local proteins. The vegetarians of the group were able to try Vietnamese seitan for the first time. The meal finished with sato, which is rice wine brewed in earthenware jars that is sipped through bamboo straws.
After the meal, we continued walking through the village and enjoyed a cultural exchange with the local inhabitants. We savored the views of the hillside while we visited different houses. By the time we got back on the bus, many of our bags were heavier, filled with various souvenirs we had bought throughout the visit.
This was a very significant visit for us because it gave us an opportunity to personally meet with members of ethnic minorities and to learn about their culture and daily lives. After leaving the village, we headed back to Ha Noi, but not before a quick stop at the Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum where we learned about the logistical system set up by the government of Vietnam during the Vietnam War to provide man-power and material to South Vietnam.
So far we have had an amazing and educational trip and we look forward to the adventures and lessons ahead!
Sarah Flohr & Kerri Wyman