Slipping, slipping into the future. Sapa, Vietnam. 2007

Sapa is a small town in the far north of Vietnam, close to the Chinese border. Ever since the Vietnamese government have opened up their country to the west, money and western influences have poured in. About two years before I went to Vietnam, a friend of mine (Doug) who’d been there, advised that I go there soon as possible because the country was changing at a break-neck speed.

Hmong motorcycle man

What makes Sapa special is that there are a few hill tribes there that have clung onto their culture and distinctive dress. Of course such sights are an irresistable magnet for tourists.

From what I saw there, with the pressure of increasing tourism and the prosperity with the head long dash towards the future it brings, I’d say that it won’t be long before the only place that anyone will see the Hmong and Yao people in their traditional dress with be at performances in large hotels. I can’t blame them; after all, it sucks being dirt poor. It’s just a pity that their culture is going to be swallowed up and absorbed by western consumerism.

I think the video below is a good metaphor, for the bland homogenous world we are all heading for.

[youtube hc7QdXU6LPI]

6 thoughts on “Slipping, slipping into the future. Sapa, Vietnam. 2007”

  1. Sadly, I think you’re right.

    The interesting bit is that we have a tendency to look at people who have hung on tenatiously to their cultures as “hick” or “backwards,” but then spent a lot of time and money to go see them (providing that they aren’t to scary or in uncomfortable places). Just by going to look, we change them forever.

    -Turkish Prawn

  2. Well, I tried to watch the video but it WAS so freakin’ bland that I gave up after a minute.
    You know, for once, I think I’m more optimistic than you!

    In my case, maybe we are not as primly dressed as the pilgrims or feathered and leathered as the native Americans, but we still have our charms.

    I have to check what’s in my morning coffee.

  3. Turkish

    Yes there certainly is an “observer effect” in visiting such places. Even though I enjoyed Sapa, I felt uncomfortable with the fact that I was contributing to the pollution of their culture. As a matter of fact, even though the Hmong and Yao people are such a photogenic bunch and I was there for three days, I couldn’t bring myself to take many photos of them. It just felt wrong.


    The blandness of the video is where we’re heading as the world becomes more homogenised and we loose diversity. This is one of the reasons why I HATE those large fast food chains with such a passion. A pox on them!

  4. We are all heading in one direction … one way or another … the future.

    “These,” he said gravely, “are unpleasant facts; I know it. But then most historical facts are unpleasant.”
    – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Ch. 2

    I agree with you, but such is life.
    If I saw a caveman in his natural habitat, I probably wouldn’t feel good building a house next to him.

  5. Planetross

    Yep! Time is an inexorable juggernaut crushing everything in it’s path. I wouldn’t want to live near a caveman either. The pets would go missing and they have poor personal hygiene. Let’s not even talk about poor anger management and conflict resolution over neighbourhood disputes.

    As for Steve Miller, I can’t believe I used to love his stuff. I guess it was all the acid that I was taking back in those days that helped.

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