I've just returned from a truly inspiring 2 weeks exploring the ethnic minority villages in the North of Vietnam. So thought I just had to share all the wonderful places we travelled to and just some of the 19 different ethnic minority groups we met along the way. Although we just missed out on a record breaking snow fall in beautiful Sapa but after a few foggy days in Sapa and Sinho the weather was kind to us and we travelled from Sinho through to Muong Te and Muong Khong areas where we got to see some amazing scenery and meet lots of warm and inviting local villagers.
Travelling so close to the annual Tet or New Years holidays proved to be great timing as some of the villages were still in party mode and welcomed us into their homes to share a New Years tipple of corn or rice wine and show us their gorgeous traditional textiles and how they lived. In Sapa we fortunate to be to there to celebrate the start of the new year with the ceremonial ploughing of the field. This is a fantastic spectacle as thousands of Black Hmong come together in their New Years best dress - - to play traditional games and party - even the men and boys (who today opt for western style dress) - were decked out in their finest traditional clothes.
After spending a day with my Red Dao friends in Taphin village we headed north west from Sapa and up over the mountain pass before driving down into the valleys around Lai Chau city. We stopped in to meet some extremely hospitable Black Dao - affectionately called the Antenna Dao by our guide. Although their clothing lacks the elaborate embroidery of some of the other Dao groups the Antenna Dao make up for it with their amazing head gear and bibs of bright pink ribbons. We also met some lovely ladies in a small Lu village - who were resplendent in their gorgeous fitted jackets and skirts adorned in patchwork, silver buttons and tapestry weave panels.
Although Sunday is market day in Sinho being there on a Wednesday we were still able to meet some fabulous characters in the markets and do some hard bargaining for some beautiful silk threads with some local Sewing Dao ladies dressed in their large black turbans and elaborately embroidered pants and jackets. There were also a number of White Hmong with their black pointed turbans and colourful jackets and Red Hmong ladies with their distinctive big red hair in the market shopping with us.
Sadly a great number of villages in the Lai Chau valley area have been moved to higher ground as the land is flooded to make way for dams and hydro plants. This has meant that some of the smaller minority groups like the Si La have all but given up on their traditional way of life as they try to make a new life in purpose built villages - however we were still able to meet and spend time with lots of different groups including some Ha Ni and colourful White Hmong families who all welcomed us into their homes.
As we climbed up and down mountain ranges around the Muong Te area we also met quiet a few different Ha Nhi groups. Many of these groups have changed their traditional costumes to be more like the La Hu who used to be the dominant group in the area and now adorn their jackets in beautiful bright blues and pinks and trim their rattan headbands in brightly coloured pinks and orange. We also found a group of the more sedate traditional garb of the Ha Nhi with the most beautiful pink embroidered jackets and had a few laughs with them as they showed us how they spun their cottons while sitting around in the market.
We descended again through the ranges to Muong Khong town for the colourful Sunday market - which although packed with thousands of colourful Black Dao, Pa Di, Tu Di and Flower Hmong we apparently didn't get to see the market in all its glory as a lot of the groups were not at the market that day as they were still celebrating with their New Years provisions so had no need to come to market for their weekly shop. While in the area of Muong Khoung and Bac Ha we also met some beautiful Pha Lu women along with some Nung and Hmong families as they worked the fields getting ready to plant the crops for the new year.
I cant wait for the next trip as we will venture into another new area along the Chinese border where we hope to see even more different groups. Check out the website for details on the tour. http://www.2worldtours.com.au/textile-trails-ethnic-villages-vietnam.html
I started running my textile focussed tours back in 2007. Over the years I've seen some of the most gorgeous textiles made by the most gorgeous women. This blog is a reflection on some of these