Excluding the Kinh or ethnic Vietnamese people there are a total of 8 ethnic hill tribes that are found in the Sapa area of Northern Vietnam. Hmong, Dzao, Tay, Giay, Muong, Thai, Hoa(ethnic Chinese), and Xa Pho. The last 4 tribes compromise less than 500 people. The largest groups are the Hmong(52%), Dzao(25%), and Kinh(15%).
Many older women of the two tribes you’ll see most often in Sapa, Hmong and Dzao, make blankets and other textiles to sell. Many will also sell produce as well as bamboo that they harvest in the hills.
You’ll also often see young children selling trinkets in the village to help support their family. Some places discourage this but in my opinion I’d rather see people buying trinkets from kids rather than handing out candy. Their dental hygiene is not good to begin with and signs around town discourage this practise. Better to donate pens, pencils, or books directly to the schools. If you insist on giving something to kids it’s better to give items like toys to the parents so begging is not encouraged. Giving anything directly to children really does set a bad pattern. Please don’t do this wherever you travel in Asia. It’s just as gratifying to give to a local charity or school.
It’s always fun to walk through the morning markets to see local goods for sale including fresh fruit and snacks like the bamboo tubes full of sticky rice. The people of the ethnic hill tribes English is remarkably good and a sign that language skills are important to survival. They are lots of fun to chat with and if you can get past the aggressive salesmanship you’ll have some wonderful memories of engagement and interaction.
I truly enjoyed my recent visit to Sapa. A highlight of the trip was a daily visit to the morning markets. Hope you enjoy the podcast and if you’d like to write a review in the iTunes store it will help other people find Far East Adventure Travel.
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