I - The most significant Sapa ethnic minorities
1 - H’mong people
Hmong has the largest population accounting for 53% of the population in Sapa. They often live in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range of Sapa, mainly gathering in Cat Cat village and San Sa Ho village which is only about 2km from Sapa town. This area has quite rugged mountainous terrain and barren soil. Nevertheless, with their skillful experience in growing rice, the Hmong people have created a huge area of golden rice terraces meandering softly along the mountainside.
H'mong people in Sapa - Source: THND
Besides, the Hmong people use the language of a separate Mieu-Dao branch, which is a very characteristic language of the Hmong people. However, according to the development of the country, many H’mong ethnic groups are fluent in both Vietnamese (Kinh people) and even English.
The Hmong Sapa people are Black Hmong, their outfits are predominantly black. Men mainly wear pants and a sleeveless jacket that looks like a waistcoat but has a flap that extends beyond the buttocks. They also wear small black hats, which cover the top of their head. In addition, hats for the male are stitched or added with colored pieces of cloth or dangling coins. As for women, they wear a black scarf with a vertical top. They also wear a sleeveless blazer that has a flap across the butt. A special feature of them compared to other ethnic minorities is that they wear knee-length shorts instead of skirts.
Annually, Hmong people have a great festival on January 12 called the Gau Tao Festival. This festival is held in the large fields of the region to pray for peace and prosperity for the village. There are several fun activities that take place in Gau Tao festivals such as archery, horse racing, martial dance, Khen dance, and crossbow shooting. Furthermore, the local Hmong Sapa people there have some typical dishes such as thang co (horse bone soup with horse meat and internal organs) , corn wine, bamboo shoots, and Dau Xi beans.
2 - Red Dzao People
The Red Dao are the second largest ethnic group in Sapa. Red Dao people often live in the valley or halfway where they can plant corn, cardamom, and rice. In particular, Ta Phin village which is about 12km far from Sapa town has the largest concentration of Red Dao people. Their main language and writing are Nom-Dao, however, these days only the elders are fluent in the Nom - Dao language. The rest of them know both the Nom - Dao and Kinh language, or even English.
The Red Dao Sapa Vietnam people have quite colorful traditional costumes with red-orange as the main tone. Women often wear red or fine red scarves, black shirts with red and white patterns in collars. Moreover, the outfit comes with many accessories, and women also shaved eyebrows and hair above the forehead. Meanwhile, men also wear black clothes with motifs and are not as colorful as women.
Red Dao people in Sapa - Source: Internet
Due to the lunar calendar, the Red Dao people annually have two traditional festivals, namely, the New Year dance on the 1st and the 2nd, as well as the traditional love singing festival on the 10th. In addition to the significant festive culture, the Red Dao has very distinguished customs as worshiping the dog, marking a family that cooks wine, or having a birth with leaves in front of the house to prevent strangers from entering, avoiding touching the heads of children, or no photo of unmarried men and women together. Therefore, if you want to take pictures, you should ask for permission first.
3 - Tay People - the third crowded Sapa ethnic groups
The third crowded population in Sapa after the Hmong and Red Dao ethnic groups is the Tay people. The Tay people mainly live in valleys, particularly southern communes such as Nam Sai, Ban Ho of Sapa with many rivers and streams, suitable for fishing and growing rice. The language of The Tay people belongs to the Tay-Thai group.
Their clothes are easy to recognize with black and blue as the main color. Besides, men's and women's outfits are the same, which is a four-stem blouse with a split on the chest, a round collar, and two pockets on the front. In addition, each person wears a canvas belt wrapped around the waist. On traditional holidays or special days, they wear five-stem dresses with a split in the right armpit and women often wear a square folded scarf shaped like a crow's beak scarf.
The Tay Sapa people have many traditional festivals such as the Long Tong festival in Ta Van village on the full moon day of January, Xoe festival in the center of Thanh Phu commune on January 4th, or Hat Then festival in Ban Ho on 6th of the same month.
Coming to Tay villages, visitors can experience activities in stilt houses, eating fish caught freshly from the stream, spinning or making brocade products, or "under armed" pork, and stall dance.
3 - Giay People
The Giay ethnic group belongs to the Tay-Thai one, so they also use Tay - Thai's language. They only make up about 2% of the population in Sapa, and usually reside in the Ta Van valley, Lao Chai. In addition to growing rice in flat fields, they also raise chickens, ducks, buffaloes, and horses. Their clothing is quite simple and quite familiar with that of the Tay added some black color in the neckline and bodice.
The Giay people have a typical festival called "Giong Pooc". This festival takes place annually in January in order to pray for a great crop year and favorable weather. Moreover, the Giay people have a rich treasure of folk songs and idioms, especially in explaining phenomena that occur in nature.
II - Tips to experience cultural tourism with Sapa people
1 - When to go?
The appropriate time for cultural tourism in Sapa is from December to April when many festive activities take place. Furthermore, the weather is quite pleasant, suitable for exploring and experiencing those activities.
Source: Lola Delabays
2 - What to do?
You can participate in several traditional festivals in Sapa such as the love market, spring festival of the Tay, the Gau Tao festival of the Hmong, the Red Dao's dance festival,.... In addition to the festivals, visitors can enjoy a number of distinguished traditional dishes such as beef rolled vegetables, grilled rice, grilled fish, Sapa fish sauce, or simply join in some daily activities of ethnic minorities such as cooking, fishing and farming.
3 - Where to stay to discover the culture of Sapa ethnic minorities?
To discover the culture of the locals, visitors should stay in homestays during the trip. There are a few suggested homestays located mainly in Ta Van, Ta Phin, Lao Chai where you can experience living with ethnic minorities.
The Little Hmong House
- Contact: +84869084364
- Location: Giang Ta Chai Mong, km5, Den village, Sapa town - about 7km from Fansipan Legend cable car station and 9km from Fansipan mountain
The scene of Little Hmong House is seemingly merging with nature. This homestay has many interesting services such as cooking classes, sightseeing or local culture classes, themed dinners, hiking, tour tickets. Its price is also quite reasonable, about 270,000 - 350,000 VND (11.64 - 15.09 USD) / room for 2 people, and 450,000 - 500,000 VND (19.40 - 21.55 USD) / room for 3-4 people.
Eco Hills Homestay - Source: Tripadvisor
Eco Hills Homestay
- Contact: +84359066563
- Location: Ta Van village, Sapa town, Lao Cai province
With the shape of a wooden house and leaves, this homestay offers visitors a real experience with the local Sapa ethnic groups. This homestay has a full range of amenities such as a normal hotel, in addition to a number of interesting activities such as cooking classes, themed dinners, walking tours, hiking. The price there is about 25-31 USD / room up to 2 people, and 31-42 USD / room up to 4 people
Sapa Terrace View Homestay
- Contact: +84979317202)
- Location: Ta Van village, Sapa town, Lao Cai province
This homestay offers a number of wonderful activities as the two resorts above do. Nonetheless, in this homestay, you can also experience the library, bicycle rental, massage, and fishing. Moreover, it has a very beautiful landscape, overlooking the valley and stream. Bedrooms there are made of wood, brocade fabric, with very cozy lights.
In brief, Sapa not only has gorgeous natural scenery or pleasant weather, but also unique cultures of ethnic people which offers visitors ùnorgatable experiences. Let's visit Sapa, visit the majestic mountains and forests, and meet the Sapa people. It will definitely be an amazing trip for you.