Our brief journey through Sa Pa was but a taste of what I one day hope will be a full experience. While my husband, Alejandro, and I only wandered through the area for slightly less than 48-hours, the peaceful valley that feels so remote from Vietnam’s other popular destinations will remain etched in our imaginations.
The stunning views may be the calling card for many a traveller, but the most worthwhile experience is getting to know a local way of life. There are many different Hill Tribes in Northern Vietnam, including the Hmong, Tay, Red Dao and Giay tribes. The largest minority living in the Sa Pa area is the Hmong tribe — of which there are many subgroups, including the Black Hmong, White Hmong, Red Hmong and Green Hmong. There are around one million Hmong individuals calling the area home. However, the tribe can be found throughout China, Laos and Vietnam. The Hmong people have been part of the Underrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization since 2007.
While we were trekking through Sa Pa, many of our guides belonged to the Hmong Hill Tribe. All women, our guides’ dress was as colourful and vibrant as their personalities. With curiosity, we chatted about each other lives. Many of the guides were in their early 20s, like me, and were also wives, mothers and talented embroiderers. The women shared with me how they learned to speak English from the tourists. While some of our guides had not had the opportunity to go to school, the mothers were very passionate about ensuring their children could learn to read and write.
Photos and Text by Sarah Comber.