You can see the world—or you can see the world. And often it’s that second view that uncovers deeper cultural insights into an otherwise postcard perfect world. The same goes for the Sa Pa rice terraces.
The region surrounding the city of Sa Pa rises high and plunges low into stunning rice terraces that staircase the mountains of northern Vietnam. Everywhere you turn is unbelievable beauty that overwhelms and inspires.
What a gift it must be to live surrounded by such magnificence, I thought while while gazing at amber, brown, and green waves of grain.
But as I soon learned, while I saw beauty, majesty, and the fingertips of the Creator, those who live here view it differently.
Every terrace “step” is plowed not by a tractor but an ox.
Each rice seedling is planted not by a seeding machine but by hand.
Every cluster of rice is harvested with the swipe of a crested knife.
Each sheaf of rice is thwacked by a muscled arm against the side of wooden box,
loosening the kernels to tumble within.
Step after step, hour after hour, up and down mountains the farmer works for rice—because rice is life.
When we travel, we can settle for seeing the outward front presented to tourists–or we can discover the story underneath. Asking questions, listening, and observing are ways to draw out history, meaning, and reality. The result isn’t a diminishing of the beauty and intrigue of a people and place but a deeper understanding and appreciation of them.