Archive | December, 2010

“TrekkShopping” with the Hmong Women

31 Dec

Sapa Northern Vietnam

Trekking and shopping are generally two activities I consider mutually exclusive, but for the women of the Hmong and other indigenous tribes in Northern Vietnam, they are as intertwined as the rice paddies are to the mountains.

The mountainous area surrounding the small town of Sapa is a combination of stunning natural landscape, human ingenuity, and deep-seated cultural roots. Set against a backdrop of the tallest mountain in Indochina, the hills have been transformed into hundreds of man-made rice terraces. The vast cultivation of nature’s most beautiful crop upon mountain after mountain was a marvel to my modern world eyes; as was the time and intricacy that goes into the traditional clothing and crafts produced by the tribal women.

We arrived in the crisp early hours of morning and were immediately adopted into a small group of Black Hmong women, who took it upon themselves to stay with us the remainder of our three day stay.

As soon as our bags were dropped off, the women began us on their tour of the little town. They pointed out the sights, steered us clear of over-priced shops, taught us about their clothes and tribes, and were fascinatingly inquisitive and giggly. As the early morning warmed into the afternoon we informed our new girl gang that we needed to prep for that day’s trek. That was precisely the moment we realized that the large woven baskets our new friends carried on their backs were not in fact full of vegetables or whatever sundries we had assumed and simultaneously the moment that we realized we had indeed underestimated “souvenir space” in our packs.

It seems their laborious sales tactics and patience in befriending every customer must have stemmed straight from the lengthy hand-made production process itself.

At a higher altitude, they cultivate hemp and use it to produce their fabrics. Nearer to their homes, neat plots of indigo plants are grown, which to my amusement were not at all blue. After the fabrics are dyed then dried over and over again, they begin the embroidery. The details and attention that go into each garment, pillow case, bag, hat, or blanket is amazing. They also produce hand-made silver which they carve and craft into bracelets and earrings. All Hmong women begin to wear earrings early in life and the size seems to grow with age.

Our group of Hmong women and young girls remained with us until our last day. We trekked over 40 kilometers together as they walked us along the hills sides on narrow ledges of the rice terraces. They took us to their waterfalls and schools. We took turns inquiring about one another’s lives and culture.

We stayed overnight in their village and woke to the same crowing roosters. They even walked with us back into the small town of Sapa on the day of our departure. As we waited for the bus which would take us to the overnight train ride awaiting us, we thought surely our purchasing had come to an end. We made one last attempt to refuse anymore of their hand-made goods by informing them that we were quite honestly out of cash. At which point one of our faithful friends told us “if you don’t have the dough, the ATM is right over there”.

So, a big thank you to our wonderful new friends for your hospitality and care.  We won’t forget the beauty of your homeland and we certainly can never forget learning how to shop while trekking through beautiful Northern Vietnam.


Shred Gnar Gnar

14 Dec

Courtesy of The Keegan Gibbs Blog

Courtesy of The Keegan Gibbs Blog

If you haven’t already, head over to The Keegan Gibbs blog and get your drool on. This surf culture photography at it’s very finest, guaranteed to get you all wet and sandy.

Ooo Lalaanta

10 Dec

We are middle of the road travelers. By that I mean that our days of “shoestring backpacking” are on hold; indefinitely. However, we do travel enough to know just how expensive it can be. So, we shoot for the middle and know a great deal when we find one. Well, we’ve found one and here it is…

Arriving at “our paradise” is not particularly an easy task but that’s what makes it all worth it.  Just below Krabi, Thailand sits the small island of Koh Lanta. At the end of this island, down a bumpy dirt road, just before the National Park lies Lalaanta Hideway Resort. It’s secluded, lush, and intensely chill.

It doesn’t really matter that you’re in the middle of nowhere, when there is nowhere else you’d rather be.

Let me walk you through a typical day at Lalaanta…

Roll out of your sleek, simple, yet sexy bungalow whenever the previous night’s activities have been rested away.  Walk a minute from your front patio to the pristine beach, pause briefly to note that you are the only one currently standing in this secluded cove.

Submerse yourself in the temperate turquoise water for a morning swim.  Upon exiting the water, notice that beyond the beach there isn’t a single concrete building, only green jungle.

Pass the gorgeous birds of paradise and elephant ears larger than a third grader up to the restaurant for breakfast; shirt and shoes optional.  Use the free Wi-Fi to update your facebook status to something along the lines of “having a delicious breakfast; which almost never happens in Asia, while enjoying a serene sea view; which almost never happens anywhere…wish you were here suckers”.











Take your book and a fresh fruit smoothie down to the beach hammocks for an intense mid-morning chillout. Sometime before the rays of the Thai sun put a burn on, have a dip in the infinite pool staring straight into the sea.

After lunch is an ideal time to have a full body massage on the beach or go for a monkey scouting hike through the National Park. The guest/staff volleyball or soccer game begins in the last  hours of daylight which should leave just enough time to shower to up before a cocktail while watching the sun set slowly over the water.

When the majestic bewitching hour has passed, curl your toes in the sand and ponder over the dinner menu choices; as they are all absolutely delicious. An after dinner drink on the beach lounge chairs compliments the starry sky melting into the vast deep blue. A night cap with Tony, or one of the other authentically wonderful owners, of Lalaanta is not to be missed. Pull up a stool, swap some stories, listen to some tunes, and let island time do its thing.  Rinse, wash, and repeat until check-out.

Holy Cow!

6 Dec

We absolutely love this shot from Kyle Merriman at Brand Knew Me. Visit his blog for some inspired imagery from around the world, he kills it.

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