We trailed behind Ling cautiously, as we entered her sister’s house, there was a senses of solemness, a mix of seriousness and trepidation. The ashy-smokey smell from the fireplace engaged our senses. Trust me now, Clinton and I had NO clue what was going on. There lay a body on the floor, draped with a cloth longitudinally. Holy crap. Was that a dead body?? What’s happening!
We stumbled right in the midst of a ritual. The religious man got himself into a trance, head swinging wildly, body spasms, hopping. There was chanting, and wild screaming. He went to the back area, came back with a live rootster. He then grabbed hold of the chicken, lifted it up, chanted something……and then. ‘Scheek!’ Slit its throat. He let the blood drip into a cup…and wait for it.. he swallowed the blood!!! Two seconds later. “PFFFFFTTTTTT!!!” He spat it out in a blood-mist mixture. It was a triple-H moment from WWE eons ago. This shit was getting serious. The guy swung the poor dead bird around until the floor sorta had a blood like design that resembled those colour-blind tests you used to do when you were 9 in school. With no hesitation, he picked up the bunch of bamboo blocks, and threw them to the ground. He looked at which sides faced up. A quick wiki search calls it ‘Jiao Bei’, which are indeed used to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ quesitons. He was probably reaching his climax, now he wielded some spear-like ancient medivial weapon. More and more trancing. The dude was sweating buckets!!
then BHAM. As though the spirits had left his body, he lay there motionless. Mr God-speaker was spent. Was he dead too? Anyhow, he got up, slipped outta his fengshui/oracle jacket, and into mr guy next door grey t-shirt, in slipped into some brandless slippers. He grabbed one of those minature stools they love in Vietnam and joined us for a cup of hot tea by the wood fireplace. Just another day in the office. OH yes i did forget about that motionless body. She got uncovered. She was the mother-in-law. She was still alive.
..And……. all I was told was we were visiting the ‘sister-in-law’s’ place. I later found out that
SAPA is a mountain region in the hills of Northern Vietnam that has many tribes such as the H’mong, Dao who live in the Central Highlands and the Truong Son region. They are identified by the headdress they wear, the whole village wears a red/black cloth hat . Clinton and I basically rocked up in the middle of Sapa, through an overnight train from Hanoi, IN the middle of winter, where apparently it was gonna be coldER than we expected. Think 3 degrees Celcius.. Now think 2 skinny-as boys without winter clothing. Completely allergic to tourist guides, we asked a group of H’mong ladies standing near the roadside if they offered homestays. Yes! They did and we were in luck! But us city boys had it slightly tougher than we thought. We truly were inoculated knee-deep in real countryside living, having to trudge through a 2 hour long trek down slippery padi field slopes with full gear before reaching our land. The H’mong are honest people, and what I love about them is they live a traditional way of life without accomodating to the tourists wants – you wouldn’t see eggs and toast in any farmside -cafe. They live mostly out of sustenance, each family has their own crops, animals and land. The ladies sew and sell their craft at the local markets or to tourists. The guys- some work in the city, but mostly they do laborious work like dealing with timber. An interesting fact, as dowry for marriage, the gentleman has to buy the bride a water buffalo. YES. A friggin 500 kilo dead weight. Throw in a couple of pigs. Then, build your house (from scratch), with the help of your mates. Pure joy. It was such a pleasure living the simple life with these humble villages. We absolutely love it.