petek, 08. avgust 2014

Through the rice fields of Sa Pa accompanied by amazing local women

Tourism and Community Development

Who is a traveller? Is it someone who passionately collects memories and photos from distant places? Or is it someone who passionately collects travel miles...

But what are the consequences of travelling? Not for your soul, your wallet or your hard drive exploding with photographs. For the people, the ones who live there, yes, in the country, region or village you visited. I am wondering what impact tourism has on local people.

There must be examples of a good impact. I can think of one. When I visited Vietnam, I was amazed by the beauty of the people and the landscape in Sa Pa in the very north of the country. The region is home to numerous ethnic minorities who still live in a very traditional way. Do not be bothered if they have mobile phones or Facebook profiles. They are still dressed in traditional clothes, they speak their own languages and have their own beliefs.

The faces of Sa Pa women.
I went for an organised trekking around the rice fields and our guide was one of these women. With colourful clothes and long black hair, I found her really beautiful. The scenery we walked through was breathtaking. Green rice fields, hildren running around barefoot, riding water buffalos... And the whole time while walking we were accompanied by a dozen of women who spoke English surprisingly well and were telling us stories from their lives.

The nature in Sa Pa.
And I started thinking. This is such a wonderful way of including locals into the tourism business. They can be such an inspiration. We can learn from them and hopefully, they can learn something good from us.

Women have an important role there. Many tribes are matriarchal and often, it is women who ask the man in marriage and children take on the surname of the mother. They seem so strong and full of energy and they all have these amazing smiles on their faces. All. The. Time. With the rising flow of tourists visiting Sa Pa, they very quickly learn English and start making scarves, pillowcases, bags, clothes and jewellery with traditional patterns that they try to sell. They work from dawn to dusk and they never complain. THEY are the very example of powerful women.

Those women!
At the end of the day these women offered us the products they made and I couldn’t find a better way to thank them and encourage them to keep going than buying some things. Which, by the way, I really liked and still use today. Buying original products directly from the ones who produce them makes you avoid potential scammers whose only goal is to exploit these people and make money for themselves. I will never forget these women and I am happy I was able to contribute a tiny little bit so they can go on with their lives. But the impact they had on me was even bigger. If nothing else, I now think twice before I complain about anything.

Laughter is their everyday companion.

*This is a blog post for the WTD Blogger Competition on this year’s WTD theme “Tourism and Community Development”. Feel free to comment and share!

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