Ta Van Village – Sapa

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Ta Van village rice terraced fields, Sapa

Visiting the Ta Van Village, travelerswill be stunnedby the idyll, rusticcityblending with the humble but marvelous houses of the locals in the village.

Ta Van Village is located in Ta Van commune, Sapa district, Lao Cai province. The village liesat the foot of amountain, with just 110 households and about 550 inhabitants. Located in the territory of Hoang Lien National Park, Ta Van village is where the essence of heaven and earth converges. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about the style and lifestyle as well as the unique culture of the Giay people here.

From the town, going along 10km of a winding trail in the middle of the mountain , visitors will come to Ta Van commune. The dirt road to Ta Van village is small and narrow, and lies between green fertile terraced fields of corn and young rice. Looming in a thin fog is a primitive suspensionbridge with swaying cane-brake and rhododendron bush crossing the Muong Hoa stream – the road to Ta Van village. Right at either end of the bridge is a 3-area shrine where Giay people hold the “Nao Cong” festival.

Ta Van village rice terraced fields, Sapa
Ta Van village rice terraced fields, Sapa

Now the land is known as Ta Van village but the locals in Lao Cai, Giay  and Lai Chau call it “Muong Va.” “Muong Va” in Tay languagemeans an “arm stretch.” Legend has it that the name was due to the fact to there were only Tay people live. There is a hilltop in the center of the village called “Pom mo da tay” (meaning the grave of Mrs. Tay).

Arriving at Ta Van village, tourists not only immerse themselves in the natural landscape, the murmuring of streams and the sound of singing forest birds, etc. but also discovering the idyllic, rustic beauty of the village. Muong Va Village is against the mountain and in front of the Muong Hoa stream. The village leans its back to the West looking towards the East and the houses faces the Northeast, because there are tall, rocky mountains and flowing stream in the East. According tothe feng shui notion of Giay people, the direction of rocky mountain and downstream of the water is not very positive. Muong Va Villegehas a history of more or less than 300 years since the first Giay people moved here. According to the elders, the earliest family came to the village were the San family, then the Vang family, the Lu family and the other families. There were hundreds of rooftops lived into villages, hamlets at the foot of mountains and valleys near rivers and streams. Living with Mong people, Giay people still remain the traditional cultural  of customs, beliefs and festivals.

The wedding season of Giay people is October of the previous year to February in lunar month of the following year (from March to July: never get married; August and September: might get married). There are many sophisticated customs in the wedding such as face seeing, house observing; release matchmaking (parents of boys can ask his son about the girl); wedding requirement (mainly: alcohol and food to invite guests on the wedding day and an amount for the daughter). “Paragraph” ceremony is held on both sides. At this time, the couple are considered as the children of two families and become husband and wife. After three years since this ceremony, if the groom’s side cannot ask for the bride, then the bride and groom are free to go foranother person. However, if either has affair within the three-year period, there will be punishments. The wedding ceremony is held in the two families. The delegation taking the bride has to put 2 red cloths across each other. When the wedding finished, the bride’s side delegation left with a red mark on the cheeks, along with the “punches” of the groom’s side to never “forget” the son’s side.

Ta Van village in autumn, natural beauty with terraced rice fields, waterfalls and ethnic people's life, Lao Chai, Sapa, Vietnam
Ta Van village in autumn, natural beauty with terraced rice fields, waterfalls and ethnic people’s life, Sapa, Vietnam

The Giays believe when there aredead people in the house, the family wash the body with grapefruit leaves, lime leaves and warm water, then change into new clothes for the deceased. The corpse is placed in the middle of the house corverdinwhite cloth on the body and the yellow cloth on the face and a stone (taken from the sharpening stone) with silver pieces cut from white silver  in the mouth. The number of children, grand-children is equivalent with the number of stones and silver pieces so that the ghost of the dead cannot speak. Because the ghost of the dead asks for whoever relatives then that one gets be sick. When the dead is put in the middle of the house, the family wear clothes inside out, go barefoot, put on no hat, be vegetarian, lie on the ground and squat until the dead is buried. Especially in the funeral of Giay people, there are funeral Mospeech including 80 items of 13 Mosection, the main content is about teaching the livings to begood people.

In the religion and beliefs of the Giays, the most important thing is to worship the ancestors and worship th gods. Ancestor worship is to worship the Vang, Lu, Lo, Ly families not any specific people. The altar is placed in the house’s main area, with the ancient original structure:the age of the woods and the copper drawers. In addition to worshiping ancestors, Giay people worship gods (not worshiping human), in which there are two types of gods: “Thu ty” – The Aborigine, “Sru puong” and “Dong xia” – Forest gods.

During a year, there are a number of events at Ta Van village: New Year celebration “Duon xieng,” July Tet; March 3rdTet, April 4thTet; Full moon in May full; Full moon in August; New Harvest in September, Banh day (Sticky cake)for ending harvest in October, Winter Welcoming in November, and especially the Harvest commencement “Roong pooc” Festival in January. During the New Year, from lunar January 10th onwards, the authorities discuss with the elderly about the harvest commencement day, upon agreement of the day, an elderly is appointed to hold the event then people share money to buy 1 pig, 1 pair of chicken, 5 pounds of glutinous rice, 5 liters of wine, 1 kilogram of fish, 5 eggs, yellow incense, etc. to make worship offerings and remuneration for the monks. The sharing is divided equally among households. In the field in front of the village, people set up a common alter, and each family have their own offerings. The family’s offerings are cakes, chicken, fish or eggs. People put a stick and a Sun-Moon cycle with a yin and yang pattern. When the ceremony is finished, the female elderly throw first, then the festival-goers throw to tear the Sun-Moon cycle, after that they put down the stick, award the winners. At the end of the the ceremony is the tugging game.

rice terraces in Ta Van village at Sapa Vietnam
rice terraces in Ta Van village at Sapa Vietnam

Traditional arts in Ta Van village are varied and diverse, including many fairy tales; quizzes and idioms about funny quiz, flora, household items and natural phenomenas, etc. or proverbs to teach children how to respond, exchange important issues and criteria for social manners. In addition, there are more than 10 folk songs, over 300 love songs and 15 songs in wine parties.

In daily meals of Giay people, there are often stirred dishes and soups. When there are guests in the house, boiled and fried dishes are added. Roasted meat, barbecue, rolls and the irreplaceable of Khau nhuc (well-stewed meat) are usually served for Tet holidays. During Tet holidays Giay people only drink wine and daily drinks are rice water, tea, vegetables or boiled water, sometimes even water. Arriving at Van Giay, visitors will enjoy the local special dishes made by the ethnic people such as Muong Hum grilled fish, Muong Khuong thang co (mixture of horse organ), Bac Ha carried pork, Van Ban five-color sticky rice… Then visitors can immerse in the festive atmosphere with, folk games of Giay people like Nao Cong, Roong Pooc(Harvest Commencement), ball throwing, shuttlecock hitting, etc. and participate in Sapa trekking tours.

|Read more: Bac Ha Sunday Market

Giay costumes and jewelries are quite simple. Men wear black or white pants, short black shirts, sometimes white but no other colors with left-sided buttons. They wear hat made of cotton towels dyed by herbal water with white patterns like stars, squares, rectangles, triangles, berries, trees, leaves, etc. Women wear pants like men as well, but those are black and soft fabrics like linen, silk, satin. Nevertheless, the waistband of women’s pants can be made of colored fabrics, such as red with double crossed stitches while there are only crossed stitches on men’s pants with a belt. Female’s blousesare usually black but there are many more  colors except for white with fabric or silver right armpit-sided buttons. The collar is 3 centemeters straight up, buttoned hem and different fabric patches blouse. In addition, there is the red hair and wool-padded yarn for the blouse (with self-dyed cotton).

Nowadays, in Ta Van village, there are 24 families licensed by Lao Cai security and tourism department to welcome tourists to stop by or stay overnight. Visitors to Ta Van mostly come from European countries such as Sweden, France, Norway or from America, Australia and variousof Asian countries.

The humanity and beauty values in the characteristics and soul of the Giay ethnic people in Sapa are leave themost beautifulimpression in every tourist’sjournal book; then when departing this wonderland, tourist feel regret, longing, and desire to be back not only once more.

|Read more: Sapa Vietnam Travel Guide & Highlights

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