We were staying at the poshest place in Sapa, the Topas Echo Lodge with its infinity swimming pool and private hutch-roofed bungalows. But during the day Thao, our guide, would trek us through the hills and valleys to meet the local minority people. On this particular day, we were met at the entrance to the Topas Echo lodge by a gaggle of women from the Red Dao tribe. They congregate at the end of the walk way hoping to pick up a group of tourists to guide them on their trek. Their aim is to sell you some of their handicraft purses and such. All across northern Viet Nam, the local woman hand-weave, dye, sew, and stitch not only their local costumes, but also purses and bags to sell to the tourists.
At first I did not welcome Lei Wa to our small group of travelers (myself, two other photographers, and our guide Thao), but after some time, we welcomed her. At some point along the trail, Lei Wa pointed to some ducks as said “My ducks!”. We have crossed into her land, and Thao, who could make friends with anyone, got us an invitation into her home where we shared some rice wine and she modeled her full Red Dao custom dress. This dress represented hours of work, made of hemp (hand woven and dyed in the area), and hand sewn by Lei Wa with each tassel, cross stitch, and coin hand stitched. Early in our meeting, we were able to take a close look at her beautiful Red Dao hat with its long red tassels as she looked out over the lush Viet Nam landscape.#sapa
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