#8 buffalo and money

I went on a 2D3N trek to Sapa last weekend and besides offering the beautiful scenery, Sapa also offered me a new perspective to the meaning of life. We were lucky to have a great local guide who invited us to her home and told us many things about the way of life of the indigenous people in Sapa.

Me: How do you make money here?

M: It is hard to make money here. Sometimes the men go to the forests to cut wood and they sell the wood. We also make handicrafts and sell them in the market in Sapa…

Me: *nods understandingly*

M: But honestly, we don’t need much money here. Because we grow what we need: the rice, the corns, the pigs, the chickens…

Me: I see. What do you use the money that you earned on? Is it to pay for the wedding dowry?

M: Yes and also to buy buffaloes. A buffalo is very expensive, it’s about 20 million Vietnamese Dong. But a buffalo is very useful in the field, if not it will be tiring for us to turn the soil in the rice field..

Me: I see…Do you have a buffalo at home?

M: No. But thankfully my brother sometimes lends us the buffalo to help us.


Think of all the money that you earned and ask yourself what you spend the money on. In the highlands, they use the money to make their lives easier and in urban areas, we use the money to supposedly enrich our lives or to feed our own ego. We acquire possessions and experiences that the rural farmers cannot even imagine of and yet we are rarely satisfied. What is the meaning of life if we slog it out at work, spend the money and yet live with great dissatisfaction? Is the social construct of “more, more, more” hurting more than helping us?

“We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us.” – Charles Dickens


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