Giang Mo lies at the foot of Mo Moutain, about 80km from central Hanoi. Approximately 100 families live here in their traditional stilt houses, tending rice paddies and gardens as they have done for generations.
Getting to the remote location was not as difficult as we’d expected. There was no bumpy dirty road, no thick forest, and no springs filled with horrible insects. We soon realized why; Giang Mo Village has been built into a tourist destination. All the zigzag paths have already been concreted. Every stilt-house is kept clean and ready to welcome visitors.
But these changes have not yet taken away the typical characters of this region. Together with the stilt-houses, the locals still maintain traditional customs in their everyday life. We saw a lot of old devices used for agricultural production like hoes, rice mortars, looms and cross-bows.
They may still be relatively poor, but the people here are still very friendly and welcoming to visitors. Strolling along the only small path through the village, we were greeted by every local we passed with a smile and invitation for tea.
On our walk, we stopped for lunch at the newly-built house of Mr. Hau, head of the village. He was busying talking to a group of Japanese tourists about the new house which had been built purely for tourists.
While he was chatting to them, his young wife, Mrs. Luu, took a break from preparing lunch for us in the next-door kitchen to give an impromptu tour of the house. The décor was simple and kept in good order. Some hand-made souvenirs hung on the walls such as a brocade and local music instruments.
Luu said that life for people in her village is becoming better thanks to tourism. Her candid approach took us by surprise. “Apart from the last year, we’ve seen more tourists coming to our village. We’ve learnt how to please them. When they come, we invite them to our house and offer them some tea or wine or fruit. But we never beg them to stay or buy our products. We want to make visitors feel at ease.”
Lunch proved her point. We were served with some local dishes including pickles, salted bamboo sprout, and boiled chicken. Although they did not suit my tastes, it was nice to learn about their cuisine. After finishing his work, Hau brought out a bottle of banana wine, a local specialty. He sat with us for a while, explaining some customs of the Muong people.
Once our bellies were full, we were invited to see a folk band play. Six young and attractive dancers, three boys, three girls, dressed in their traditional black costumes and performed three songs. The band received rapturous applause from audience.
Unfortunately for us, we had to decline invitations to stay the night, but promised ourselves we would return to find out what locals like to do after darkness falls.