SAPA: Hmong Hill Tribe Home-stay (Part 1 of 4)
Category : Vietnam
After our first interaction with the Hmong Hill Tribe Ladies (Sue and Ling) we headed to check-in to our hotel, which we booked in advance online for $7 a night. With it being so early in the morning it took a little bit to find our hotel. Once we arrived all the lights were off but the address matched, so we walked in. As we entered there was no one in sight. It was very dark inside, totally FREEZING, and kind of felt like we walked into a haunted house. There was also an extremely random floor fan running in the lobby making it even colder. When we turned it off, the place was in complete silence. We literally waited about 40 minutes before a girl from next door came over to grab something and noticed we were there, she said we had to go to the hotel across the street. “Really?” All this time we sat there and froze clueless! Any indicator would have been nice! As we entered this other hotel we felt relieved. It had lights, heat, and people. They even offered us ginger tea. Things were looking up. Finally, after waiting again for some time, the receptionist showed up. We were hoping to check-in and get some rest but this wasn’t the case, we found out that our check-in time wasn’t until 12pm (it was now about 7am). After everything we have been through so far this started to make us feel a little frustrated. In the mean time we also tried to see if we could book a room for an additional night for the same price. He told us they only have rooms for double the price and cash only. We knew this wasn’t true because of our current booking. So we went and investigated online and it showed the price of $7 for the rooms available. As we confronted the receptionist he told us the price was incorrect and we can only get a room for what he was offering. This was definitely a scam (this seems to be an ongoing issue in Vietnam). We were done with this place. So we huddled up and evaluated our options. ”AHHHH RAT,” then we saw a huge rat running up the stairs. We looked to see if anyone else noticed and these two Korean guests were looking at us with the same freaked out look we had. Gintare was freaking out over the rat saying repeatedly “I’M NOT SLEEPING WITH RATS.” (This was disturbing and hilarious at the same time!). We knew we only had two nights here and then we were leaving for Laos so we decided it would be best to just get out of here and go try to book a real home-stay experience and not waste any time. We told the receptionist we will be back and left very quickly out the rat hotel (LOL) in search of our new buddies Sue and Ling.
This was actually a lot more difficult then it sounds. Roaming SAPA with tons of Hmong Hill Tribe women around and looking for a specific two, that we have seen only once, was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Even having a picture for reference didn’t help. The town was actually bigger than we anticipated. Also that day there was a market in town so from asking others we were under the impression they would be there.
Along our way a younger looking Hmong Hill Tribe women that had her baby strapped to her back, approached us trying to sell her handmade items. She was very nice and sweet but at that moment we were so focused on finding these two women we didn’t want to buy anything (note: we weren’t trying to be mean, we just knew that if we didn’t book the home-stay that day that we were going to miss out). We tried nicely to separate from her but she was very persistent and followed us all around town disregarding all the hints we tried to give her (it created a distraction). On a positive note, she did lead us to a very beautiful view of the rice fields and mountains in SAPA that we probably wouldn’t have found with our current mindsets without her. This was a nice treat after all.
Then a serious conversation arose about her family and their financial position so we caved in and bought what looked like a mini satchel. She won (LOL). After walking up and down the alleys of the market and everywhere else we pretty much gave up the search. We started to go back to the hotel and right as we were in the moment of failure and settling with the disturbing idea of possibly sleeping with rats Sue yelled to us out of nowhere from a group of tribe women who were sitting on these big rocks lying next to the sidewalk. We felt found and saved. Right away we told her our situation and we took the trekking/home-stay adventure with her. We were very excited, especially Gintare! Our hotel offered no refunds so we negotiated giving up our room in exchange to store our luggage there for the night, they agreed. So we grabbed some items, stashed our bags and took off. Little did we know what a crazy journey this would be!