Paying it Forward While Traveling in Vietnam
Have you ever thought that you could change someone’s life with a small gesture? I hadn’t. But somehow my hubby Roman and I managed to change someone’s life and, I have to tell you: it feels great. Our story happened while we were traveling in Vietnam.
Many tourists travel to Sa Pa, in North Vietnam. It is a lovely town in the mountains. It overlooks the terraced rice fields of the valley. Many agencies arrange trips there with a local guide and a homestay. But those guides take tourists to the same villages, and their houses are more like guesthouses than a real home.
Visiting that way, you don’t experience the authentic local life, and don’t see how the residents really live. Another problem is that you are not helping the locals earn money because agencies work with the same guides every time, and many locals remain without work.
She works, takes care of the children, cooks, and cleans. They are very poor and don’t have a shower, not even a room with a bucket. They shower in the river at night, even in winter. But she was grateful for her life.
When we traveled to Sa Pa we decided that we wanted to experience real local life, so I looked up recommendations from other tourists for a local guide. I found several options and called them. I liked Nhu. She was really nice and spoke English well. A day later, we arrived at Sa Pa and met Nhu near the church.
She took us for a trek in the mountains. We walked for about seven hours. It was a tough road, but we had asked her to take us on a difficult path. During the trek, we talked with her a lot. She told us about her life. She has two children and a husband. Her husband drinks a lot and gambles. She works, takes care of the children, cooks, and cleans. They are very poor and don’t have a shower, not even a room with a bucket. They shower in the river at night, even in winter. But she was grateful for her life. She is such a humble person. I loved that about her.
After the trek, we arrived at her home, a simple cabin up a stiff hill with toilets outside the cabin. Roman had a cold and she didn’t want us to take a shower in the river like her, so she took us to her friend’s house to take a shower there. She was sad that we couldn’t take a shower at her place, and said that she had a dream that one day she would have a shower too.
We were amazed by her modesty and generosity, and we really wanted to do something to help her.
After we had taken a shower she cooked dinner. We sat to eat with her two children, a boy and a girl, and her husband. We ate one of the best meals of our trip to Vietnam there. She made spring rolls and tofu in tomato sauce, rice, salad, and more dishes. It was so delicious.
In the morning she made us a tasty breakfast and Roman and I returned to Sa Pa by foot along the main road. It took us three hours to get there. It’s crazy that Nhu used to walk this way every day before her husband bought a scooter.
We were amazed by her modesty and generosity, and we really wanted to do something to help her. So when we were in India, Roman decided to open a non-profitable site for her. On this site, he described our experience with Nhu and why it’s important to choose a local guide independently and not through an agency. He added Nhu’s phone number, as well as that of another local woman who we met in Sa Pa). I wrote about this site on my blog.
Several months ago, Roman’s brother flew to Vietnam and we recommended him to go to Sa Pa and choose Nhu as a guide. He did.
When he met her he told her about the site that we had opened for her. She told him that since we launched this website, she had had many more clients than before.
Because she earned more money she was able to renovate her home and build a shower after all!