May was our fantastic guide for the day. She is a Black Hmong woman who learnt English by speaking with tourists and has now become a guide. She brings tourists to visit her local village, and we spent the whole day with her another couple of tourists from Australia. Our day was spent walking up and down the valleys, saying hi to the local women, many of who were carrying corn. She told us all sorts of incredible families about her family, her traditions, her beliefs. She was surprised to hear that we in our own countries have many of the same challenges and joys as she does in her small village but definetly the customs are very different. She tells us how the women in the village all learn how to make clothing on New Year’s Day and then will spend a whole year making their gorgeous and intriquite outfits from scratch. A group of young women pass by us giggling. They have just come from a funeral, and May tells us that it’s customary that “Young women are usually kidnapped by the local boys after gatherings like funerals. They then keep them captive for a few days and treat them really well because at the end of the three days they ask them to marry them”.
Back in Sapa after the tour, we go to visit the other Baguette & Chocolate afterwe visited the one in Hanoi a few days earlier. This restaurant is part of a training programme working with disadvantaged youth across the country. They are trained in cooking, hospitality and tourism and the service is fantastic.
We sat outside on the terrace. The restaurant is a little away from the hustle and bustle of central Sapa, up a long staircase right off the road. It is in a beautiful grand white house with red details around the windows and doors. There is a constant stream of tourists carrying guidebooks walking through the doors. Most go indoors where the décor is crisp and white with a section where guests are asked to take off their shoes before entering. Most are busy eating are a variety of the delicious looking French pastries available to order. In a corner of the terrace a tiny kitten is jumping around his mother, looking for things to do and see.
My hot chocolate is nice and a perfecting ending to a gorgeous trip to Sapa. It is easy to drink, and I could have one every day if I lived here.
Verdict: Even a quick 48 hour trip to Sapa will make you fall in love. It is a beautiful and stunning spot. This spot is doing some really great work to support underpriveledged youth in Sapa and the service and food are good. I would recommend the hot chocolate as well. Baguette & Chocolat, Rue Thac Bac, Sapa, Vietnam
Vietnam is a fascinating country, so much richer and deeper than I ever realised. There are 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam all with their own cultures and customs. The main group, the Viet, account for approximately 87% of the population. The remaining 13%, some 8.5 million people, spread out across the country have incredibly interesting and rich cultures that are celebrated at the very interesting Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi.
Museumas are a tricky thing when travelling. Everyone always tells you to go to Museums but most of time they are dark and dull spaces. This place is a highlight of Hanoi. The building is filled with information, pictures and displays introducing you to the different ethnic groups and their customs; everything from marriage, to how they raise their children, how they celebrate life and what happens when they die. Once you have explored the inside there is an even larger outdoor space where they have build copies of the traditional houses of many of these ethnic groups which you can enter and take a look around. It is a fantastic spot and one you could easily spend a few hours to a whole day in.
In the garden just between the main museum building and the open air gallery is Baguette & Chocolate. I read about this place before I cam to Hanoi and wanted to visit it. It is an initiative run by the Hoa Sua School for Disadvantaged Youth. Founded in 1994, this initiative recruits about 700 youth from around the country annually and trains them in 11 different programmes around either Hospitality and tourism or Embroidery and tailoring. Students in food and hospitality programmes are trained at a range of venues including several cafes and restaurants across the city. Baguette & Chocolate is one of them.
We take a seat inside on the terrace. It is hot outside but luckily there are several ceiling fans pointed directly at us. The service is incredible. A young lady comes up and asks us very politely what we would like and once we have told her she repeats our order to confirm. We order lunch, a few cold drinks and, of course, a hot chocolate. I figure a place that has the world chocolate in the title must be doing something right with its chocolate related products.
The hot chocolate is presented at the end of our meal. It is a bit watery but has a nice flavour and looks beautiful.
Verdict: A trip to Hanoi should include a few hours visiting the Museum of Ethnology and this spot in the garden makes a perfect rest stop to absorb all the interesting information. The service is great, the food is quite good and I enjoyed the hot chocolate. Plus you are supporting a very worthwhile project. Baguette & Chocolate, Museum of Ethnology, Nguyn Van Huyen st., Hanoi, Vietnam.