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Vietnam Heritage, Lao Cai Village People

The girl travels with friends to Ta Phin, a Red Dzao village in Lao Cal province, where she discovers wonderful scenery and hot herbal baths

Trang Trinh travels with friends to Ta Phin, a Red Dzao village in Lao Cal province, where she discovers wonderful scenery and hot herbal baths

Setting off from Sapa one morning, our first stop is Ta Phin monastery, about 12km away from Sapa town. You can hire motorbikes for about VND 100,000, if you feel like blowing the cobwebs off, and traversing the hills of Lao Cai. But with the threat of rain in the air, we opt for jumping on a bus instead.

But even still, we enjoy the sweeping landscape of mountains, valleys and terraced fields as local farmers work on paddy fields amidst a light layer of mist. It's a stunning tapestry that wows any resident of a city like Hanoi. From a distance, the monastery appears. It has been a landmark of the area since being built in the early 1940s. Today it's one of the area's most popular tourist sites.

Construction began in 1942 and at first the monastery was more of a nunnery. A group of nuns belonging to a congregation of devout Reformed Cistercians stayed here raising poultry and growing vegetables with farming tools donated by the French colonial authorities, who hoped to boost dairy and agricultural products in Lao Cai, where some tourists came in search of cool mountain air visitors, but where there was also a military presence.

In 1945, due to spreading unrest - the first Indochina War had begun - the sisters fled to Hanoi. The monastery was partially burned and ruined. It had never been fully completed. A second phase, which would have accommodated a further one hundred nuns and novices, was never started.

The structure is now covered with a thin green and orange layer of moss. Much of the building is too dangerous to walk though as the floors have caved in. Nature, has flourished outside. Flowers and trees surround the site, blooming peacefully, a sign that war is ancient history. A cool wind blows and sun shines brightly, so we sit around and relax, enjoying the scenery and mountain air. In the distance, a young couple poses for a wedding album.

Leaving Ta Phin Monastery, we travelled for another 5km to visit Ta Phin village - home to a community of Red Dzao. The village is well-known for its traditional brocades, which are all hand woven.

The Red Dzao women are the producers and also the fashion models. They are always dressed from head to toe in traditional garments - an eye catching array of embroidered pieces with a red headscarf, the symbol of Red Dzao. The women are friendly and converse easily with visitors in English and Vietnamese telling us about the village, the local customs and the daily routine of the villagers.

"If you want to know about our culture, the easiest way is to stay with us and join us in our everyday life," says Man May, one of the villagers who offers homestay accommodation for tourists. "We can drink some of our home made wine, which is very good for healthComputer Technology Articles," she adds hopefully.

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This summer, take Vietnam tours at Lao Cai village and discover wonderful scenery here and more Cambodia tours, Lao tours and Thailand tours.

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