Bac Ha is much more impressive than Sapa. Trails run along the mountainsides, high above the valleys with great views. There are fewer villages up there but I had a great guide, Hung, who comes from a minority village himself and got us invited into numerous private homes.
The houses of the Flower H’Mong tribe, so called because of the women’s colorful dresses, are built from clay and wood, with a packed dirt floor, subdivided with curtains. There is an open fire – but no chimney – and a ladder to upstairs storage for rice and beans. There is always hot tea and a bamboo water pipe with tobacco for guests.
Only the very old and the very young stay at home; everyone else is out tending the fields on the mountainsides, harvesting or plowing with a buffalo. Not an easy life!