A village situated at an altitude of 2000 m in the highlands along the Vietnam- China border is home to six ethnic minorities of Vietnam. It is about 400 km north of Hanoi connected by a good road network. The area remains covered by a blanket of white clouds all the year around. The sunrays hardly pierce through the clouds and, if at all, the Sun is visible it is only in brief stints and that too hazy. Y-ty means the land of fog which truly it is. The visitors to the village have to make an early morning rush to the mountain ridge in order to view the fog / clouds emerging from the valley down below at the day-break. It is mesmerizing to watch the clouds rise up drowning the whole area in a big sea of pure whiteness. I experienced this blissful natural phenomenon one fine spring morning.
The ridge is the borderline between Vietnam and China as it will decide which side you roll down if you fell over. Ironically, the fog doesn’t present that spectacular a view on the Chinese side. Perhaps the shape of the Y-ty valley is unique.
The Vietnam army – an impression
Y-ty is a border village but visitors to the area don’t require a permit to enter. However, there is a military check post in the village where all the outsiders are required to report. Foreign tourists to report alongwith their passports and the native with an ID card. The Homestay people would take you to the checkpoint for reporting. Ms My (pronounced: Me) the home stay owner took our group to the military room. An army personnel, maybe an officer as he had 4 yellow stars each side on his epaulets and a matching tie to go with the uniform, appeared soon after Ms My went to find him. The man was drunk as he reeked of alcohol. They don’t speak English. Fortunately a fellow tourist in the group knew English and she acted as an interpreter. The officer could only say two words – ‘India’ and ‘yes’. During about 15 minutes of our stay in the room he uttered these words about three or four times and shook my hand each time he said ‘Indi’ and ‘ys’. All that time he was a chatterbox. His other actions included holding hands of Ms My and putting his arms across her shoulders. Once or twice he held the other woman’s hand too. Another drunk man, without uniform, came in after about 10 minutes, shook my hand and flipped through my passport and shuffled the others’ ID cards. He was also of ‘India and Yes’ vocabulary. Finally we were allowed to go. The man handed over my passport and the officer was kind enough to see me off to the gate and warmly shook my hand. Nothing recorded, no entry anywhere. We had just reported. It appeared a strange way of reporting to an authority.
After about ten minutes or so the officer was at the homestay. Someone poured him a drink and they started chatting. I retired to my room. The next morning while settling the bill I was asked to pay 200,000 dongs more. That’s about 10 USD. The officer had collected the amount from Ms My the previous evening as my ‘registration’ fee. I wanted to know how much was the stipulated fee and where it was recorded. I was told that the army sometime charged an equivalent of USD 20 from foreign tourists for ‘registration’ and I was lucky to have it in less than 10. No one dared pose a question to them as their rules were strict. And I had to rush to the ridge.
The conduct of the Vietnamese army officer was so meanly cheap and substandard that it presented a dismal and sorry picture of an armed force which is considered second only to the Chinese army in the region. I kept thinking about the high standards of our own army. The Indian army is impeccably professional and disciplined that we are so proud of.
The Vietnamese women, however, are very beautiful.