|Women at work: Local sellers at a market in Tram Tau town.
by Bach Lien
Tram Tau in Yen Bai province may be one of poorest districts in Viet Nam, but it is probably the region with the most smiling and optimistic people I've ever seen in the country.
During my recent field trip to this region for a few days, I was amazed to see how hard the local people work but how generous and smiling they can be.
The name of this region may not be very well-known to many travellers who have often heard of more famous and touristic mountainous regions like Mu Cang Chai (Yen Bai), Sa Pa (Lao Cai) or Dong Van (Ha Giang). But if you really want to explore the real life of ethnic people while contemplating beautiful and grandiose natural landscapes, Tram Tau may be your new ideal destination.
It may be better for you to discover this region now before many tourists arrive and cause it to change.
This region is located in the northeast region of Viet Nam, next to Mu Cang Chai District. People here, being comprised of Mong, Thai, Khmu, Tay, Muong ethnic groups, only live on plantations of maize and rice, as well as raise cows.
During my first day in this region, I had the opportunity to discover the local market in Tram Tau town. I was welcomed by gentle local women sellers who said hello to me with big innocent smiles.
Here, they sell diverse products laid out on a piece of plastic sheet: eggs, chicken, bamboo shoots, ginger, fresh cabbage, and forest banana flowers.
Many women, in colourful dress, carry on their back the vegetables they grow in their gardens and then sell to customers.
In this market, many kinds of brocade and colourful dresses were sold.
Different to many other regions, sellers here do not bargain. They do not easily change the prices of their products.
However, they are very easy-going people. Many asked me where I am from and they were happy to be in photos. It's different from Sa Pa, where some hawkers ask you to pay them to allow you to take a picture of them.
Besides local specialities, you can also easily find in this town Ha Noi beer, different kinds of fruit juices, modern clothes and mobile phones.
The second day, when walking in the remote Hat Luu commune of the district, I met by chance a Thai ethnic family. After a brief conversation, they invited me to enter in their house which is a wooden house on stilts.
Luckily for me, I arrived on the day the Thai people celebrate Independence Day (September 2).
For a long time, this day has become an important festive day of the Thai in this region, the second most important festive day, after Lunar New Year.
They clean the house, decorate the ancestors' altar, and in particular, they prepare a hearty meal as an offering on the altar, and after, the family members will enjoy the meal. On this day, they only eat meat (chicken, duck, pork) but not vegetables.
I was luckily invited to enjoy this big meal with them. It was a happy experience for me!
Celebration of this day is the way Thai people teach their children to remember the important dates of the country, and to be grateful to those who sacrificed their lives for the country's independence.
On the third day, I continued my excursions in some other remote communes of the district. I was impressed to witness the local people's peaceful life despite hardships.
I came across an old woman carrying heavy firewood on her back. Wiping the sweat on her face, she smiled to me and nicely showed me the way when I got lost.
After some minutes walking, I met a mother sitting in a chair in front of her house. She was embroidering, with her little girl sitting behind. They waved to me and smiled to me to say hello.
Another mother combs her hair in front of the door of the house, next to a young man sitting in a chair outside the house to get some fresh air.
Not far from them, a group of children in go home from school, holding colourful umbrellas in their hands as it rains.
They also take in their hands a lunch box as they often bring lunch from home to school. Their meals are very simple, only with some pieces of pickled bamboo shoots and chilli.
Besides these interesting lifestyles for you to discover, this land has a lot more to offer.
This region is ideal for ecological tourism. Tourists can get fresh air in summer while going to streams and to the pine hills. They can bathe with hot mineral water in winter. They can admire immense terraced fields. Moreover, they can also discover the interesting cultural life of ethnic groups including the dancing to the flute of Mong men, leaf pan-pipe of Mong girls, dancing on the stream of Thai girls and dancing with the gong sounds of Kho Mu people.
|Tranquil town: The peaceful landscapes of Tram Tau District can help reduce stress. — VNS Photos Bach Lien
Tram Tau is also ideal for adventurous tourism.
Hang Te Cho waterfall in the district draws people who love the wild beauty of land untouched by human hands.
The waterfall is considered by some the most spectacular waterfall in this region of Viet Nam, and looks like a tiny thread against the hills in the distance.
The road to Hang Te Cho is a dirt path, often muddy, which skirts along the edge of cliffs. The challenging route, in places barely wide enough for a motorcycle to pass, is one reason why this waterfall is still pristine and not widely known among casual travellers.
You can also discover Ta Chi Nhu peak which is the dream mountain shared by many who love climbing and "cloud hunting".
Being the sixth-highest peak in Viet Nam, with its 2,979m altitude, this peak will give you an unforgettable experience, with a view from the summit that's awesome and ravishing.
If you want to go to this district, it may be better not to come in the rainy season (from May to September), the muddy roads of the remote communes will become hard to pass. Local people cannot ride a motorbike on these roads during rainy days. They have to walk.
Even a few months since my trip to this region, I keep missing the many faces of local people, as well as their looks, their life and in particular, their radiant smiles. — VNS