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Sapa Culture Guide
Posted on: 12/08/2012 - Viewed: 836
 
Thai Ladies - Sapa Travel Guide - Sapa Travel

There are many reasons to come to Sapa. The two main are: to see how local minorities live in Vietnam, and to go on a trekking on the mountains.

People who live in the region still use their traditional clothes (young and old people alike). They also speak their own languages -- each tribe speaks it own. The tribe people belong to a different ethnic group than the rest of the Vietnamese people.

Although tourism is developing fast in the region, many locals still live a very basic life. Most of them spend all day long working on the fields. They sell what their families do not need in one of the weekend markets. And with the money they make, they buy something else. It is what experts call a subsistence economy. No luxuries here.
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Red Dzao Girls - Sapa Travel Guide  

Although you need to do a trekking to the mountains to see the "real Life" of the ethnic minorities, you can see people belonging to many tribes in the streets of Sapa.

The Red Dzao is one of the ethnic groups that live in the region. They are called Red Dzao because they always use red to decorate the clothes they wear. There are two curiosities about this tribe. The first is that you can know how rich a woman is by the size of her hat. the other is that the local canon of beauty says women have to shave their hair and eyebrows. Can you see the girl at the background? She shaved her eyebrows.

The Red Dzao live, mainly, in Tam Doung and Dong Van.
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Black Hmong Mother - Sapa Travel Guide - Sapa Travel

One of the largest ethnic minorities in Vietnam is the Hmong Tribe. Hmong originally means "free people". They came from China, and now live in different regions throughout Vietnam.

The Hmong minority is divided in several subgroups. It is very easy to identify them, looking at the color of the clothes they wear. In the picture you can see a mother with her child. She belongs to the Black Hmong tribe.

By the way, when you come to Sapa, bring an empty bag. I am sure you won't resist the temptation to buy some of the handmade souvenirs on sale in the shops. You will find silver bracelets, clothes, pillows, blankets, hand bags... at an exceptional price. You will also find Sapa souvenirs in every major town in Vietnam. When buying souvenirs made of fabrics look for imperfections. These are the ones made by local people. The souvenirs "too" perfect are produced in industries somewhere else (China).
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Traditional Saturday Market - Sapa Travel Guide

Two and a half miles (4 km) from Sapa is the Catcat village. This is a traditional Hmong people town. You can get here on a jeep and/or on a motorbike.

Another nice town to visit is the Tafin village, nine miles (15km) from Sapa. you can get here by car or motorbike. In this town live Red Dzao and Black H'mong people.
 
Somewhat farther is the Binh Lu market, 30 miles (50km). This is one of the most picturesque places in the region. Diverse ethnic minorities inhabit the area. Do not miss the opportunity to visit a cave close by.
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 Sapa, Red Dzao Women In The Market - Sapa Travel Guide - Sapa Travel
Sapa is also famous for its love market, which takes place on saturday evenings. The love market of Sapa used to be the place to find a partner to get married. With the tourism, the real love market does not take place anymore. Currently you can only see a representation of the love market. Do not miss it anyway if you are staying here a saturday night.
Young Red Dzao hill tribe used to come to Sapa to sing songs to the opposite sex. Girls sang the songs hidden in the dark, when a boy found them, and if they matched together, they disappeared into the forest for three days. Some of them got married after that. Currently you may spot some young locals singing in the dark, but they are not looking for a partner, they are looking for you. They will sing a song, and ask for a tip afterwards.
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Local People - Sapa Travel - Sapa Travel Guide
70 miles (110 km) from Sapa sits a town that you should not miss, Bac Ha. In this town takes place another famous local market every sunday. This market is less touristy than the market in Sapa.
 
In the market of Bac Ha you will have the chance to see more ethnic minority groups than in Sapa, but the infrastructure is not as good. For this reason I recommend staying in Sapa, and leaving early in the morning. You can get to Bac Ha on a mini bus or on a 4 wheeled vehicle from Sapa. Many of the tours that you can reserve in Hanoi offer the possibility to visit the two towns and their markets.
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Hmong Girls - Sapa Travel Guide - Sapa Travel  
In this picture you can see a group of local girls trying to sell something to a tourist.
When I saw these young girls harassing the visitors, I had a mixed feeling. Tourism is bringing money to these people. This money will change the life of the local people. Quality of life of the future generations will be much better, but at the same time many traditions will be lost. I guess this is the price they will have to pay. The same happens with the Sapa landscapes. In order to accommodate the tourists, new hotels are being built in and around Sapa. Some of these hotels respect the local building techniques, but most of them don't. I wonder what will locals sell to the visitors, once part of their scenic views are not here anymore.
 
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Daily life of Black H'Mong tribe
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