TaVan is a village outside of SaPa. My first visit there was on a cloudy, misty day. Somehow, the mist fit the entire atmosphere of the village as people in their traditional dress walked with us across the hanging bridge and over the muddy paths.
This village is a home to two different ethnic minorities, the Black Hmong and the Red Dzai. In addition, located in the village is a school at which children from the surrounding areas board Monday through Friday, and then return home to their parents on weekends. There is now free compulsory education for children throughout Vietnam from ages 6-10. We were lucky enough to arrive just as the children were getting out of school. We were able to meet them and were shocked at their linguistic prowess!
This little girl greeted me and asked me, in English, where I was from. I responded, “Israel.” I was surprised that she spoke English. After all, here we were in a rural village outside of SaPa which was outside of Lao Cai which was nestled in the mountains of north Vietnam, along the Chinese border. But more surprising was when she said to me, “Shalom, Chamuda!” [Hello, Cutie!] in Hebrew, using the feminine form… I almost fell over! On our walk, I spoke with her about what she was studying and I asked her how she would have responded if I said that I was from France or Italy or Germany or Spain– and each time, she had a prepared response. Amazing!
The adults and the children accompanied us on our walk, steadying us when we were walking over muddy terrain, and at the end, of course, they strongly urged us to buy things they were selling. The tote bags were attractive, ethnic, and very inexpensive. Who could say no?
The people were warm and friendly and the experience in TaVan was memorable. There is a guest house in TaVan for trekkers who say they have also enjoyed the friendliness of this very picturesque village.