This is MaMa of the #reddaohill tribe. Her tribe is known for their expertise in herbal medicine, specifically known for their medicine baths. MaMa reminded me of my grandmother, which led to me wanting to photograph her. She was old, withered, and with her severe hunch only came up to my bellybutton. She spoke no English; could only point to herself and say 'MaMa. Me.' She followed it with 'Dao' and pointed to her red head wrap.
People here, including myself, give Sa Pa a lot of shit for being inauthentic; it's tribespeople abrasive and brash with their assertive approaches to salesmanship. We bitch that we've spent a lot of money to be in Sa Pa and want to be left alone to admire it in peace, without being asked 500 times to buy a scarf and a necklace.
I get it. I don't like it. But do you really think they do? Do you think this woman, who's been here to see it all, likes watching her village go from a place of bona fide tradition to a tourist trap? Do you think she likes that Westerners invite themselves to walk all over their backyards, posing on their properties with selfie sticks? That tour companies say that the proceeds go towards bettering their living situations, when clearly that isn't the case? Or when tourists take photographs of them without asking permission, like they are animals at the zoo?
These people are people.
We, as visitors, need to respect them.
Yes, their tactics are invasive. But we're invasive for being there in the first place, and MaMa nor anyone else had a say in that.
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