For many visitors, beautiful Sapa can be a little annoying with all the tribal women accosting you in the streets to buy souvenirs. But behind the sales pitch are real people struggling to make a living in a world that offers little opportunity for tribal communities. Chu, a feisty little Black Hmong woman, followed us through the streets trying to sell us bracelets, postcards, whatever. She tried all her cleverly designed sales pitches and edgy one-liners without any success. Somehow, our resistance to her spiel seemed to intrigue her. She even labeled me “Mr. No.” Over the course of the day, we encountered her several times and eventually spent some time talking to her.
What struck me most was how intelligent and witty she was. Her English language skills were exceptional and, in another world, she would have been a high-powered business woman, a politician, or a scientist. Instead, she travels the long distance from her village to Sapa every day to stalk tourists and earn a little money to help maintain her family. Good for you, Chu.