When you travel with your camera, fun things happen. The photographs you make with your camera help you remember that fun years down the line. In July of 2002 I spent a few weeks traveling in the northen areas of Vietnam and met a lot of people and especially kids. My style of traveling is very slow paced, spending days just hanging out in random places. I am a shy person by nature, but whenever I have travled in SE Asia, if I just sit somewhere, inevitably people will come up to me and start talking.
In the above photo I was on a small guided tour doing homestays with hill tribe peoples in the Sapa Valley (perhaps the most pure place I have ever been). We did not stay with this family, only having lunch there. It was a restaurant really and rather busy. My backpack developed a rip in it and I asked this woman if she could sew it. While she did that I had my lunch with her and all those kids. While in Vietnam, I learned how to say numbers in Vietnamese, which allowed me to make a series of jokes about buying some of their farm animals, etc. It was a fun time with them and thanks to my trusty Olympus 2040Z, one of the first digital cameras, only capable of a 2MP image max (1600x1200), I have this photo to help me remember that time.
I was hiking down into the Sapa Valley on my own, as the pace of the guide with the three much older members of the group were taking involved way too many breaks. I was feeling the thrill of exploring an enchanted place and could not stop. Along the way I met these two girls who greeted me with, "Hello, candy?" This made me laugh. I told them sorry I did not have any candy with me. I think we shared some raisins together though.
To make this group shot with yours truly in it I set the camera on my bag with the self timer on. These kids belonged to the Black Hmong hill tribe and were tending to a water buffalo, who did not want to be petted, unfortunately. I still regularly wear the shirt and pants you see me in above, although in my increasing width, the shirt is seemingly shrinking. The G-Shock watch I am wearing, along with the Olympus camera that made this photo, were both, sadly, stolen when in Miami in 2003.
Another very surprising thing was the high interest in collecting plastic water bottles (empty). Whenever our transport vehicle would stop, kids would ask for any empty water bottles we had. You could also buy food and full water bottles from right inside the vehicle. As soon as you stop, boom, arms are through the windows and snacks are literally right under your nose for purchase! Very convenient!
This photo story is revealing a significant secret of mine, which is my feelings about the Sapa Valley in northern Vietnam. It is an absolutely incredible place. It is just so pure. The Earth seems younger there.
I spent about two hours just chatting with the girl above while I waited for my train to leave Sapa. Her English was amazingly good. She said she just learned by talking to tourists. I was impressed as none of my students back in Korea could speak English like her! She was talkative and I enjoyed listening to her tell me how she makes the crafts she does and just about her life in Sapa in general. I cannot remember what I bought from her. Perhaps a bracelet? I am very glad to have this photograph to remember her by.
These boys were on their way to the post office proud to have the responsibility of delivering a postcard. I had to keep retaking this photo as more boys wanted to get in the shot. They went on to the post office and I continued on into the Sapa Valley.