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  • hardie karges 8:09 pm on January 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Dao, , hill tribes, , Sapa,   

    Hot Date Pho Ya’ 

    Red-Dao-PeopleHot dates and hot steamy—but ultimately limp—noodles are two concepts that don’t always go well together, but they defined a pleasant event in my life some twenty-odd years ago. You see, I wasn’t exactly the first guy off the starting-block in the dating game way back when way back where. That’s because women scared me to death, everything they were and everything they represented, mostly ‘otherness’ written in large letters and emblazoned across the sky by out-of-work crop-dusters looking to make an extra buck in the off-season.

    But then when I realized that their ‘otherness’ was not defined by their femaleness, or vice-versa, and that for the most part females were people almost just like you and me, then that opened up a whole new world of possibilities, and suddenly life became easier and less scary, too. I’d just have to find my otherness in other ways, I guess. Itinero ergo sum. I travel, therefore I am.

    So I decided to put all my fancy theories to the test back in 1995 (or was it 1996?), during a visit to Sapa near the Chinese border in northern Vietnam. For those of you who’ve never been, it’s a lovely hill town probably best known for its spectacular Black H’mong and Red Dzao hill-tribes. The H’mong are known, among other things, for their hand-spun handwoven indigo-dyed hemp fabric, while the Red Dzao are probably best known for their embroideries… and ‘love market’.

    It’s true. The night before the weekly market, the women hang out and hook up with guys, presumably from other villages. That keeps the species healthy, hybrid vigor and all. They even sing to each other, no accompaniment necessary. But the unique twist is that married women get in on the act, too, especially the ones whose hubbies are back home, and probably too stoned from opium to care much about their wives’ needs at the end of the day.

    Yes, I was propositioned, and more than once. But no, I did not go gently off into the bushes of that good night, nor was I especially interested in applying for any of their apparently frequent openings and positions. These weren’t the young filles of the tribe, after all. The girl I was interested in was less then twenty years old, and less than half my age at the time.

    My friend’s head was half-shaved, like all of them, and she was cute, dressed in full tribal regalia, something similar to what the British redcoats wore during the American revolutionary war. It’s striking. We hung out, communicating in Tieng Viet as best we could. How good is the average Thai bar-girl’s English, after all?

    So I asked her to go eat pho with me, Vietnam’s famous noodle soup (pronounced ‘fuh’, with a falling tone, unless you’re in Laos, in which the tone is rising; go figure). To my surprise, she accepted. Well that caused a stir in town, you can be sure. Vietnamese tourists from the cities, who normally only take pictures of each other, were now taking pictures of us.

    I think there was even one real journalist in the crowd, poking his lens up almost in our faces. The surprising thing is that my friend never flinched, out of fear of me or any of the attention, this in a modern world which scares many traditional tribal people to death. We took long walks. I showed her where I was staying. Finally I told her I’d go visit Ta Phin, the village where she and all the local Red Dzaos live.

    So that’s what I did. But I didn’t find her there. Hill-tribes lack much in city planning. They had running water, though, carried in slit bamboo tubes. I left town without seeing her again. When I came back six months later on my biannual trip, I saw her again, hanging out with the group, as they made their rounds selling crafts to the tourists. Did I mention that I used to deal in crafts and folk art?

    She said that she was getting married; I’ve read this script. I congratulated her. I told her I went to visit her village previously, but didn’t find her. She said she didn’t know. That’s okay. It would have never worked out for us anyway. The damp cloud-like climate turned all by papers to mush. And when Internet finally came it would have been too unreliable. I can see that now. Maybe I should go make sure…

  • hardie karges 8:33 am on July 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: hill tribes, nationality, Thailan,   

    Human flotsam and jetsam bob in the surf, 

    stateless girls latching on to men in girl-less states of mind and body. Their options are limited; their smiles are not. Maybe the more pathetic the state, such as Burma, the bigger the smile, the greater the willingness to go for escape velocity. Life in the hills can be hard: no home, no birthday, no rights. Lives come and go at the speed of shock waves through shit, no prom, no brownies, and no football heroes, just cheerleaders. Life is cheap and your price is known. This is the origin of slavery. This is the origin of marriage. This is ‘lives of the cheap and dirty’, coming soon to the prime-time schedule. This is the gene pool, time for a swim.

  • hardie karges 10:53 am on January 23, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: hill tribes, ,   

    Vietnam Hill Tribes 

    The Viets 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.     

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