We Follow You Anyway

When visiting Sa Pa, Vietnam, it is impossible to avoid the basket-laden H’Mong tribal women, in packs of at least three, who hunt tourists. They lie in wait outside hotels, home stays, and bus stops. Each lady carries a tall basket on her back, filled with her wares. Tourists are warned not to buy from these women and even not to talk with them. If you feel you must speak, the only logical answer to them is “No.” They interpret everything else as “yes,” especially “maybe” and “later.”  Even ” no” means “yes” because “no” means that they will increase their sales pressure until you give up and buy.

As we exited our car one day at the beginning of a trek, the car was swarmed by a half-dozen women (would this be a two pack?) pushing their sales talk at us. One of us tried politely to say “no” while the other warned “Don’t talk.” Understanding this exchange between us perfectly, one of the ladies retorted:

“You no talk. That o.k. We follow you anyway.”

And they did.

We didn’t buy.

A day later, photographing in Quang Truong Square near the Catholic church, we recorded this sequence of events.

Victim Identified
First Contact
The First No
A Distraction
A Futile Attempt To Disengage
We Follow You

The victim lady in the first five photos did not buy anything while we were watching, but, as she left the square, she was followed by “her pack” exactly as the couple in the last picture were.

If you want to visit this square without being followed, go on a Sunday morning while the ladies are in church.

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