They dress with colored jackets. They cultivate rice, buffalo pastures, walk kilometers and kilometers every day. They live in countries where in a month it can rain what in Rome rains in a year. The Chinese call them “Miao”, for the rest of the world are the “Hmong” : an ethnic group that lives in the mountain regions of southern China and south-east Asia, scattered between Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam.
In Vietnam, the Hmong can be found in Sapa , a mountain town 1600 meters above sea level, 300 kilometers from the capital Hanoi and 35 from the border with China. Founded in 1922 as a French resort, Sapa can be reached with several hours by bus or overnight train journey from the capital.
For years, a tourist boom has unfortunately made it a victim of savage overgrowth and littered with ungainly hotels, but it is very popular with western tourists who use it as a starting point for alternative trekking.
THE POSITION OF SA PA, IN NORTH VIETNAM
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Life in the town flows according to tradition: in the market the jaws are on sale, a pastime that in these areas goes the most, and hmong mothers sew the fabrics with children tied on their shoulders.
Restaurants are more and more attentive to the needs of European tourists, but there are still local delicacies such as the heart of raw wild pork, cut into cubes and seasoned with his blood (the doctor was clear: “Do not you dare ever eat something again like this, if you want to live long and healthy “).
The landscape that surrounds Sapa mixes lush vegetation, terraced valleys, rice fields. And tiny villages scattered here and there, where the Hmong live. Most of them dedicate their whole lives to the cultivation and trade of clothes and fabrics, but in recent years many are also turning to tourists interested in learning about their traditions. In Sapa there are numerous tourist agencies with which to organize trekking for several days, with lots of overnight stays in their communities.
Among the villages closest to Sapa, which can be visited in a day, there are Cat Cat, Ta Phin, Sa Seng and Hang Da. The price for the excursion is to be negotiated: the final figure will obviously be smaller if you speak directly to the hmong jumping brokerage of an agency.
In Sapa it is easy to recognize the hmong for their typical clothing, characterized by beautiful dresses with geometric patterns and bright colors. But often we do not even need to look for them: it is the Hmongs themselves who approach tourists to convince them to visit the village they come from.