Sapa, Bac Ha market, the H’Mong minority village
of Sin Chai, and Fansipan mountain are attractive tourist sites in Lao Cai
Province. On the 3,143 meter journey to conquer Fansipan, native porters from
the H´mong minority people play an important role. These local tourist guildes,
with homely smiles, have become a popular factor generating tourism in the area.
The Porter’s character
At a height of 2,200 meters, we took a break from our trek. On the high
mountain, steaming hot dishes attracted all of us. We were surprised to have
these delicious meals that we dared not think of before at such a height. Our
group had three porters namely Lanh, Sinh and Thao who also doubled as guides to
take care of us on our journey to Fansipan.
Lanh, the leader of our group, has been a porter and guide for many tourists
during the past 3 years. He knows Fansifan like the back of his hand with
knowledge of all paths, steep rocky ascents, and rope climbing places. Spring is
the best time to climb Fansifan as you can enjoy various kinds of blossoming
flowers, the porter informed us.
We were lucky to climb on a sunny day that was fog free. In bad weather, we
would face a lot of difficulties. Many teams have been forced to return due to
bad weather or could only reach the height of 2,800 meters.
”It is really dangerous to continue the journey in bad weather” he said. Many
tourists have had accidents and porters had to render first aid and transport
them to the nearest medical clinic.
Each porter is usually paid VND 100,000 per day. Porters are in charge of
guiding, carrying luggage, cooking, piching tents and securing the camp site.
During the 3 years of being a porter and a guide, Lanh could not remember how
many tours he has served.
He is one of the most expereinced guides of the travel companies which offer
tours to climb Fansipan. According to Nguyen, Director of the Viet Discover
Travel Company, most of local porters are honest and industrious; however, it is
difficult to ascertain those who are wise, good at some languages and understand
foreign tourists’s requests.
A good porter knows what weight tourists can carry and how to cook enough
delicious dishes for visitors. He also knows how to keep up the rate of progess.
And he is the person who makes the journey more exciting and meaningful.
Lanh usually leads a group of less than 10 people. There are some groups with
more than 100 tourists. For groups of foreign visitors, interpreters will
usually be heads of the group.
Those Industrious guys
Sinh, 16 years old, is the yougest guy in the group. Sinh, with a little
command of the Viet language, was recruited. Previously, he fetched firewood in
the forest and played with his friends most the time. Lanh advised Sinh to
become a porter to earn money to help his family. In his free time, the young
guy usually stays at home or plays with his friends in Sapa.
For Lanh and the other porters, they usually help their wives do farming or
guide visitors around the town in their free time. ”H’Mong men are very
industrial. I have to earn money to support my children,” Lanh said.
These porters were always good at their work including carrying luggage,
clearing paths, guiding us in our assent of the mountain, cooking dishes, seting
up camps, and cleaning up our mess!
In particular, these porters also contribute to protecting the environment.
”Protecting the environment is the way to maintain the tourist route,” said Lanh.
Tourists are usually impressed with the local tourist service in Lao cai
province, especially in Sapa. Many have become friends of local porters. After
the journey to Fansipan, scores of travellers hope to return to again see the
local people in this special land.
Source: Reported by Song
Translated by Duy Minh