After witnessing the motorcycle accident at the beginning of our trek to the villages outside Sapa, Vietnam, we continued our walk and before long we reached a side road that looked like the beginning of a trail head down the valley. The road turned from asphalt to gravel, and then it ended at a point where we saw a large group of local women standing around. We had a couple of local women walking with us from Sapa — they were trying to connect with Anna and Kristi and convincing them to purchase the handicrafts, and even after Anna said no, they still continued to follow us.
There were at least 20 of other local women standing at the trail head. It seemed that they knew the tourists would come through that route, so they waited there for the groups to arrive. As they saw us coming, some of the women stopping talking with their friends and started joining our group. So the group that started with five people (our tour guide May, Dave, Anna, Kristi, and me) had more than doubled when adding the local women who went with us.
Anna asked May if this was normal to have such an ‘entourage’ going with the groups, and she said yes. Many of these women came from the nearby villages and compared to the majority in Vietnam, they were quite poor economically. The handicraft business was their way to try to capitalize on the foreign visitor interests in their culture.
The photo below was taken as we reached the trail head. You can see the gorup of women waiting for the hikers to arrive.