Yours truly in a Red Dao herbal bath. Photo: Affandi Hamid
I’d sent this piece in for a writing competition, but I didn’t make the shortlist, so here it is for you guys.
I had begun my trip to the highlands of Vietnam expecting to learn more about the cultures of the Red Dao minority. What I hadn’t planned for was having the trip turn into a culinary experience, which in turn had me reminiscing my own identity and childhood.
It was a three hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi, followed by a nine-hour train journey to Lao Cai. Then came the hour’s drive up the winding hills to Sapa, punctuated by the 13km hike to a Red Dao village, where I was to spend two nights.
Embarking on the hike to Ta Phin
I should’ve packed an extra set of clothes. We were headed to the remote village of Ta Phin, Vietnam, so I saw it fit to cram my day pack with water and bread. Oh, they had tons of that over at my homestay. They even had enough beer and rice wine to kill a couple of cows. What they didn’t have were spare clothes, a fact I had to learn while drenched from the rain in fifteen-degrees Celsius weather. I sought refuge next to the fire pit under the pretense of helping out in the kitchen, all the while thinking, I definitely should’ve packed that extra set of clothes.