The Love Market

The Vietnamese can’t believe that tourists go to Sapa to view the incredible hill-tribes, insisting it’s the French alpine atmosphere that draws them. Maybe it’s a poor man’s Switzerland, but certainly no more than that. The hill tribes are another story. The little Hmong girls have been photographed and appeared on book-covers many times and could speak better English than a Thai bar girl by the age of six just by being copycats and hungry, Pidgin by parrot-chat. The Dzao women are from outer space, heads half shaved and wearing outfits resembling the British Redcoats of three centuries back. Rumor has it they’d get frisky with their male counterparts during the long weekend market. It’s true. They’d sing songs antiphonally, and then just wander off, I guess.

I was propositioned at least three times by various members of the group of varying ages, all wanting nothing more than my temporary membership in their apparently frequent openings. I think their guys smoke too much opium. Of course the young girl I fantasized about wasn’t available. Photographers followed us on our only date, to eat Vietnamese noodle soup. I wonder what it’s like now. They’d started to refurbish the French colonial atmosphere that got badly smudged by the Chinese invasion of 1979. China intended to teach Vietnam a lesson for invading Cambodia and putting an end to the Pol Pot terror. They lost almost 20,000 troops in two weeks before withdrawing. A Chinese friend insists Vietnam begged China to leave. Right. Countries do that all the time. Just ask Slobodan.