Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Textiles of Sapa. Part 2

To smooth the coarse cloth fibers, the women make a rolling press from a smoothed wooden log and a long, flat rock or piece of petrifled wood treated with beeswax. The cloth is laid across the log and the rock placed on top. Then a woman climbs up. feet apart. using her weight to move the rock from side to side in a seesaw motion. The material is gradually moved across the log. The H'mong superstition is that the log represents the woman and the rock represents the man. If either break during the process, this symbolizes the break up of the woman's marriage and her husband is free to choose a new wife.

Chau Tri entered the hut wearing a red shirt and plain black skirt, but when she emerged again from the make-shift bedroom she was dressed in a So (a long black jacket with brightly coloured embroidery), an intricately detailed "that lung" (belt), and "trau thi ko" tied in place with blue and green laces (the black velour which H'mong women wrap around their calves). H'mong women learn embroidery from a young age. They learn how to do basic cross and chain stitch, but then experiment to develop their own unique styles and designs as their skills improve. The women are very proud of the clothing they make - it is a part of who they are. As they can only practice their needlework after house and falm chores, each garment takes a very long time to complete. One girl told me that her jacket and skirt had taken over one year to make.

Like Chau Tri, most women wear everyday garments around the house, saving their best for going to the weekend markets. Men often opt for more typical Kinh people-style attire as they find the layers of hemp fabric cumbersome and uncomfortable, yet it's still fairly common to see men in Sapa wearing a polished black hemp jacket with a discreetly embroidered panel on the back of the collar.
The arrival or tourists in the region has meant that many women now buy commercially made garments, producing natural textiles to sell rather than to wear themselves. Some people think this is going against traditional values, but the money generated can help households survive when their only other source of income is rice production.

Toni Nguyen

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Exotic type of beauty in Central Highland of Vietnam

Prepare to marry and go to the husband family, first thing the girls have to do, that is piercing their ears by thorns for earing then gradually widening the hole as possible. They then get point of the elephant ivory which hunted by men in the village to pierce on the hole.

Mrs Nang Nang, 90 years old, said that this is the type of customs and also the type of beauty of B'rau ethnic minorities women in the village of Dak Me, Bo Y Commune, Ngoc Hoi District, Kon Tum province, Vietnam. They pierce their ears as wide as beautiful, earing wearing holes can be more than 10 cm wide. Later, when have no more elephant ivory to make earings, they are replaced by the short bamboo sticks or plastic bottle caps ..

After finished beauty for the ears, the woman continue make beauty for her teeths, they grind their teeth shorter by a stone. This is not only important for women but for men too, it show they now come to the age to have to do all the work, from go working to  grow rice on the field, to going in the forest to hunt elephants for pulling timber.
When the teeth grinding was done, it mean they are not voracious, eating in moderation, do not eat all of the parents, they are filial children to their parents.

The B'rau peoples also make the beauty by tattoo strange shapes up around the face, the shape of the tattoo with thei preferences, it could be a cross or parallel lines ...
The peoples, who tattoos express themselves on their body this way, it mean they living in affluent families, poor people are not allowed to tattoo like that.
Currently, the customs have gradually been eroded. Dak Me Village have now just over 10 women with over 80 years old still have earings hole about 10 cm wide. The village also have two women lived in a rich family who were tattooed on their faces, that Mrs Nang Nang and Mrs Y Bu (103 years).
Mrs Nang Nang said: "I and my husband tattoosed when we married, I did tattoos for the beauty only. In general, it is customary leave by our ancestors but we would not understand much about it."

Toni Nguyen

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Sapa, the city in the cloud. Part 2

The best way to experience Sapa is to take a guided trek through the villages, as many pleasant walks pass through nearby villages. Many homes have no electricity end are lit inside by a smordering heap of embers dug into the dirt floor. It can take a while for your eyes to adjust to the dimness before the shapes of small wooden benches and chairs, tools, cooking utensils, and other trappings of rural life become clearly defined. I watched pigs snuffle contentedly outside in their pens and chickens enter doorways in squawking flurries of feathers, chased by giggling, semi-naked toddlers. There were men leaning against a wall of roughly hewn planks, chatting quietly in their native tongue and taking occasional breaks to puff on gurgling water pipes.

The loft spaces of village houses remain empty until the early fail when the rice paddies have yellowed and ripened for harvest. Then, whole families will work together to reap and pack the grains. Storing unhusked rice under the hut roof to keep them fed during the punishing winter months.

Although the indigo jackets of the Black H’mong are more numerous, they are less eye-catching than the scarlet attire of the Dzao. Trekking along the rocky path, it's easy to spot small groups of Dzao women making their way back up to their homes, conspicuous red dots against a neutral earthy palette of greens and creamy browns. Up close, the Dzao women are striking, their unique bone structure made all the more prominent by their shaven heads and eyebrows. They remove the hair from the front of their heads to keep cool under the heary red headscarles heaped on top, and many are happy to show visitors exactly how they create the towering caps of tasseled cloth. Some carry babies across their backs, wrapped in a brightly colored swaddles. Often only the top of the baby's head is visible, a tiny red dome covered in auspiciour, mirrored embellishments, embroidery and tassels. “It’s for luck”, the mother explains. “If you like, you can buy…”

Every member of the family has responsibilities, even the young-sters. The children attend school in the morning, taught by Vietnantese teachers, and return to help their parents in the afternoon. When water buffalo are not plowing the terraces, these benevolent beasts are well cared for by the children. I saw one boy strewn across his Buffalo’s back, fast asleep, as another aged five or six herded a small herd of jet-black goats up the road, skipping behind them as his tiny rubber boots splashed through small rivulets.

The influx of tourists has given the local ethnic minorities a reliable source of income. Before they traded rice, cardamom or other produce at the markets, but now they sell tourists keepsakes such as embroidered textiles, bags, and etched earrings. Despite the increased income, critics worry that ethnic minorities might lose touch with their culture, as they sell off their exquisite garments and handmade crafts, and use products made cheaply in China and sold in Vietnamese markets.

Toni Nguyen

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Sapa Town, the city in the clouds. Part 1

Sapa’s cool climate and magnificent green vistas first attracted the attention of French Colonizers in 1909, but the minority people of this frontier valley have been living and working in the shadow of Fansipan mountain for much longer.

Like most traveling to Sapa, my journey to the hill town started in a sleepy train station cafe in Hanoi the night before. It was 9 pm and already pitch-black when I joined a waiting roorn of fatigued locals who were milling about and stirring Styrofoam cups of iced “ca phe” (coffee), trying to keep their eyes on their baggage ancl over-excited chilclren. The most popular train option is an over-night sleeper, departing Hanoi in the evening to arrive in Lao Cai early the next day. Travelers are likely to end up sitting with a cheerful Vietnamese family who is eager to share smiles and their supplies of fresh fruit during the ten-hour journey. Awakening early the next morning, rural images race by the window: rolling green pastures, lakes, and small enclaves of houses.

At the platform in Lao Cai a fleet of minibuses waits for new arrivals. It's only 38 km to Sapa, but the winding drive takes two hours. The scenery is magnificent - the verdant green vista of farm plots, terraced rice paddies and low-land valleys make the journey pass quickly.

Situated 1,600 meters above sea-level, temperatures are always coo1, averaging a comfortable 15-18"C. Though bitterly cold in winter, the mountain air provides a perfect escape from the punishing summer heat of Hanoi. Locals say that you can experience all four seasons in one day in Sapa. Many H'mong women carry long umbrellas to shield themselves from both the rain and hot sun, using the sturdy metal spike as a walking stick through muddy slopes.

Fansipan Mountain, nine kilometers northwest of Sapa, offers challenging hikes. At 3,143 meters, Fansipan is the highest peak in Vietnam and in all of Indochina, obscured by clouds year-round and with ternperatures often dropping well below zero. The name "Fansipan" derives from a rough pronunciation of the local name "Hua Xi Pan" which means "the tottery giant rock." Now recognized as a unique ecotourism area, Fansipan is home to 2,024 floral varieties and 327 faunal species.

Altogether, there are 14 ethnic minorities living in the surrounding area. The earliest records of the H'mong show they once ruled much of the area around what is now Beijing, but now over 7 million H'mong people are scattered across south China, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos (700,000 H'rnong live in North Vietnam). Although it is over 1,000 years since they ruled their own nation. H'mong people retain their cultural identity and their language.

Continue at Part 2

Toni Nguyen

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