Monday, 18 March 2013

Visiting Ban Pho, a Flower Hmong village in northern Vietnam

On the afternoon of our visit to Can Cau market, we left the car in Bac Ha town centre and walked the few kilometres to the village of Ban Pho.  This is a Flower Hmong village which is richer than most, having benefitted from tourist income generated from visitors such as ourselves.  Whilst our visit and others like it have undoubtedly affected the village, I'd like to think that the changes are for the better and that the traditional way of life and culture of the minority people remain strong.  Fanciful perhaps, but this seemed to be the opinion of villagers we spoke to.  They are glad of the new school building and the teaching resources which enable all of the children in the village to attend school to the age of 16, but they are also happy to plough their fields with water buffalo and transport their produce to market by horse and cart.
Lady making herb bundles

We visited the home of an elderly couple who had lived in the village all their lives.  He was tending some young vegetable plants in the garden and she was preparing bundles of herbs to take to market the next day.  Their home was very basic with an earth floor and a straw roof and a sleeping area curtained off from the rest of the living space.  Both of them were smoking water pipes as they worked!

In another house, we were shown the corn spirit distillation process which happens in most village homes.  Corn cobs are stacked up and dried for several months before being cooked in a giant wok for a few hours with sugar.  The cooking liquid is then poured off into large plastic barrels which are covered with plastic bags and left in the sun to ferment.  Later, this liquor is distilled into a clear spirit which comes in at a hefty 70 - 90% proof!  We witnessed several of the village men who had clearly had one or two too many shots at lunchtime!!

You can see more of my photos of the village here.

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