In the picturesque misty mountains of Vietnam’s northern regions, the Mong women, who belong to the eponymous ethnic minority group, accompany their husbands in guiding trekkers to conquer the challenging peaks of the northwestern mountains.

At 9:00 am, a car transports tourists from Sa Pa Town in northern Lao Cai Province to an area in Sang Ma Sao Commune in Bat Xat District. The distance covered during the journey is over 60 kilometers.

When the vehicle reaches the destination, two female attendants efficiently prepare and pack essential items such as food, clothing, and other necessities into traditional “gui” baskets, commonly employed by ethnic groups in Vietnam.

The porters in the northwestern regions primarily consist of indigenous men who possess strong physical attributes and fall within an average age range of 18 to 40.

It is evident that among the trekking group, there is a female porter dressed in a vibrant Mong outfit, dedicated and passionate about assisting the trekkers.

Bui Huy Khoi, a young tour guide, frequently leads groups of trekkers in the northwestern region to conquer mountain peaks. During his expeditions, he has had the privilege of working alongside Giang Thi Lien, a remarkable 27-year-old local girl from Sang Ma Sao Commune. Khoi’s admiration for her is evident as he acknowledges the exceptional skills and dedication displayed by female porters in their line of work.

After embarking on a three-day trek with Lien, I witnessed her dedication as she immediately returned to her farming responsibilities without pausing to rest upon concluding the tour.

Lien’s youthful appearance belies her age, as she impresses fellow travelers with her rosy cheeks during their trek to conquer the Nhiu Co San peak, standing at a majestic 2,965 meters above sea level.

Having joined the porter team five years ago, Giang Thi Lien has made a name for herself for her enthusiasm, friendliness, and good cooking. Photo: G.L / Tuoi Tre

Having joined the porter team five years ago, Giang Thi Lien has made a name for herself for her enthusiasm, friendliness, and good cooking. Photo: G.L / Tuoi Tre

With a cheerful smile on her face, Lien recounts how she felt a deep sense of purpose that led her to join her husband in moving to Ky Quan San Hamlet. Now, she finds herself once again destined to earn a living as a porter alongside her husband.

Previously, A Chu and his wife predominantly labored in agricultural fields, yet struggled to meet their financial obligations. Consequently, they engaged in a conversation with the aim of securing employment within the travel industry.

With robust health, A Chu and other men from Ky Quan San Hamlet have chosen to work as porters, guiding trekkers on their challenging mountain expeditions.

Recognizing the positive correlation between A Chu’s climbing endeavors, improved health, and financial gains, Lien made the decision to emulate her husband’s path after birthing their two children.

She expresses her enthusiasm for doing the same job as her husband, stating, “I embrace this opportunity because it brings me joy.”

Initially, she served as her spouse’s assistant.

After gaining five years of experience in the field, Lien has developed increased confidence and expertise, enabling her to take on the role of the primary porter for each tour. Not only that, she can also provide valuable guidance to other female newcomers in the industry.

“Climbing is not difficult at all – it simply requires getting accustomed to it,” she states candidly.

Sung Thi Voi, aged 47, a local woman in Nhiu Co San hamlet, joins her children to work as porter. Each time joining a tour, she carries around 20 kilograms of loads on her back to serve travelers. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Sung Thi Voi, 47, a local woman in Nhiu Co San Hamlet, joins her children to work as porters. Each time joining a tour, she carries a 20kg load on her back to serve travelers. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre

The primary duty of a porter is to efficiently transport and handle the luggage and other belongings of travelers.

Given the number of travelers booking group or individual tours, each porter has been assigned a weight limit of approximately 25 kilograms. Female bearers, on the other hand, are expected to carry around 18-20 kilograms.

Climbing mountains and walking through forests can be lengthy and exhilarating journeys, typically favored by male carriers due to their physical advantages.

During the trekking trip, Sung Thi Voi (47) consistently offers encouragement to fellow trekkers, even if she is not fluent in Vietnamese.

She is willing to carry additional cargo for tired trekkers without any complaints.

Each porter is currently paid 400,000 VND (approximately 17.5 USD) per day. For individual travelers, the fee may vary slightly depending on the number of tourists present on that particular day.

This job provides a higher income compared to farming jobs, making it an attractive option for individuals seeking better financial opportunities. Upland women do not shy away from hard work and are willing to take on challenging job roles.

“This position is traditionally dominated by male candidates; however, we make every effort to provide assistance and support to our male employees,” explains Lien.

“The position also fosters personal fulfillment and facilitates knowledge acquisition through interactions with travelers.”

Travel bookings by local women in northwestern Vietnam continued to pour in on March 8, the recent International Women’s Day.

All members expressed their hopeful anticipation for the successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing for increased tourism interest in booking trekking tours.

This exquisite present is the ultimate choice for female porters.

According to Bui Huy Khoi, female porters are typically wives or family members of experienced male porters. Initially serving as assistants to the male porters, these women gradually transition into becoming leading sherpas themselves. Travelers often enjoy interacting with and admiring female porters due to their excellent physical health and exceptional climbing abilities, surpassing even their male counterparts.

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