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MK 80 (Sapa Part 1)


Thanks for your patience. This is Part 1 of my recent Sapa story.

Sapa is in the far high northwestern area of the country.

Foreign tourists and local day trippers go there on 2-3 day package tours organized in Ha Noi. This economic reality supports the Vietnamese businesses. Transport, tours, hotels, food, trekking costs. Everything. 

Cheap Chinese made junk is popular with tourists.

Travelers take time to get to know and understand the people, their culture and way of life.

The local people are the H'mong, Red Dzao and Tay. They do not own businesses in Sapa. They sell their handicrafts in the market and on the street. They lead treks. They speak excellent English.

A young H'mong guide told me in a good month she makes $120.

That's $4 a day. 


MK 80....hear more. 


Out of Ha Noi train station


Now that I am back I begin at the beginning. A good place to start. I'm not one of those travelers running into hotels to get ON LINE! to post daily. I slow down. I make notes and art in my Moleskine. I doodle. The hand is directly connected to the heart. Computers are useless. They only give you answers. Picasso said that.

I make images. I spend quality time with people I meet along the way. Everyone is an artist.

After returning to my base, I sift through notes, upload images and create a minor masterpiece. So it goes.

I left on the 9th. At the train station near tracks I passed the "Free W.C. House," yes, a free W.C. With WiFi? Electronic crap-a-rama. Go with the flow. Delete from system. 

It felt great to put on the pack, walk through the narrow lanes (a la China) get to the street, get a bike, get to the station early, get some green tea, get to platform #7 between trains, get a sleeping berth in a room for four. Riding the rails, this rhythm. Comfortable mid-week - no humanity crush. 

Yes, this pack, the weight and these steps in old Timberland walking shoes bought in Ankara in the fall of 2007. Since then plenty of terrain in comfort; Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam; Ha Noi, Hue, Hoi An and now destined for Sapa, mountains, trails, rocks, water and good dirt leaving footprints on Earth's surface.

It's a walking meditation. All this rapturous joy. This synthesis of love.



Walking home through the maze. She's had along day. Selling.


A Prayer for the Traveler


This is by Edward Abbey, (1927-1989) American author and environmentalist. It was published in whiskey river.

"May your trails be crooked, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.

May your mountains rise into and above the clouds, may your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock,

blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you - beyond that next turning of the canyon walls."

wood s lot...learn more




Riding the rails


Thanks for your patience. The 2015 Lao Cai express to Ha Noi pulled in at 0430. I rested in an crammed narrow upper sleeping berth.

A boisterous group of Thailand tourists on a quick four-day "buy and see," from Elephant Town wrestled impossible suitcases and cheap Chinese appliances into the passageway. Their young leader works for Herbal Life and freelances as a tour guide. He leaned over and with unmitigated glee displayed his lapel pin with the company logo and heart. 

"Wow!" I exclaimed, "It's all natural!"

After brushing aside the Ha Noi taxi touts my dream sweeper collected dreams from the sleeping monkeys.

Sapa was magnificent, just what this little explorer needed for a peaceful, awesome, fresh aired human and nature connection. Bliss. Mountains, fog, mist, clouds, rain, sun, valleys, rivers. Beautiful people. You know you're in the zone when 10 days feels like 10 aeons. 

Armed with my trusty Moleskine, camera tools and an open heart-mind I ventured forth. I will create galleries for your visual enjoyment and share Sapa stories along the way.

Shh, the bats are roosting in palm tree cover outside my window.



MK 79


It's up. It includes words about "Ray" a biopic film about Ray Charles. See it.

Also a mention for "The God of Small Things," a novel by Arundhati Roy. It won the Booker prize in 1997. An excellent read.

I'm traveling forever give or take a moment, to hike, explore and meet minority hill tribes near Sa Pa in the northwest. A wonderful opportunity to learn, share and create.

Ethnologists classify the Montagnard tribes into three main groups:

  • Tay (Tay-Thai language group)
  • H'mong (H'mong-Dzao group; their language resembles Mandarin Chinese) 
  • Dzao, (Mong Dzao language group.) These three groups splinter into vast and complex sub-groupings.


MK 79...hear it live.