The last couple of days have been full of the beautiful traditional dress of the local people such as the Black Hmong, Red Zao, and Flower Hmong. Many of the women in town are also selling handicrafts that are duplications of their own dress or use similar techniques (like purses or hippy pants with embroidered patches sewn on). Some of them are handmade, others by machine. I’ve been having fun doing a little perusing of the items for sale, in search of something interesting to take home. In Sapa there is a little section of the covered market that is dedicated to the handicrafts of the Black Hmong (my personal favorite of all the handicrafts). The room is filled with a couple dozen tables, piled high with indigo fabrics that have been made into all sorts of items: bedspreads, pants, jackets, purses. Each table has its own wrinkly sales lady (working on stitching something, but there is always a calculator nearby in case a potential customer comes). I walked around the dimly lit room looking for just the right patch to take home and frame. Some were too bright, others were too big.
Except for the Hmong women and me, the room was empty. They watched me with sideways glances to see what type of item I was interested. As I’d come up to a new table, each woman would pull out a pile of patches for me to peruse. Some called me to their tables with undecipherable clucking sounds. One woman led me by the arm behind her table, offered me a stool, and produced a back full of old patches. Her work was good, and I bought an indigo-colored patch from her, as well as a more colorful one from another woman. Although I seriously considered buying more, I decided to wait for the Bac Ha market, which was a mistake. I was disappointed by the Bac Ha market as I incorrectly figured there would be similar ladies selling hand stitched items, but most of the things for sale seemed to be mass produced, or else if it was handmade, not something I really liked. This is actually a repeated lesson I’ve learned throughout the trip. If you find something you like, especially if it is handmade, buy it on the spot. There is no guarantee you will be able to find it else where. And for some purchases, the memory of the process of buying it is just as fun as the item itself.