Children from the Hmong hill tribes near Sapa, Vietnam

Please refer to this post for back story 😛 Professionally, I am a school psychologist, so I am interested in the lives of children around the world.

So women and girls both try to sell crafts to tourists.

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Hoping tourists will give them candy for the new year.

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Entering into a Hmong village/tourism area, where buses drop people off.

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Hmong boys at the market in Sapa.

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A girl and her friends hoping to sell bracelets to tourists.

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Hmong boys following a group of three girls. It is tradition for boys to kidnap the girls they want to marry. I can’t say if that’s what these boys were up to 😛 That’s just what our guide told us.

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Hmong girls doing laundry while men fish.

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Kids carrying a bag of apples home from Sapa.

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The yellow building on top of the hill is a school. In Vietnam, government buildings are yellow.

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A picture from the front of a school. Ho Chi Minh loves the children.

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Portraits from hill tribes living in the hills near Sapa, Northern Vietnam

I visited Northern Vietnam during Tet, lunar new year, which was in February this year.

P1110026My favorite place was Sapa, a town nestled in the mountains 30 miles from the border with China. We took an overnight train ride from Hanoi to get there, followed by probably an hour bus ride. The area around Sapa is breath-taking.

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Terraced rice fields have been cut into all the hillsides, farmed by the hill tribes in the region, including Hmong and Dao. The Hmong were trained and used as soldiers by the US during the Vietnam War (or the American War as all our Vietnamese tour guides called it). After the Vietnam War, thousands of Hmong refugees came to the United States, to places like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison WI, LaCrosse WI, and cities in California. There are estimated to be 300,000 Hmong now living in the US.

These tribes were once nomadic, but the Vietnamese government has confined them to plots of land, where they now construct houses. Because of the climate, rice can only be planted and harvested once a year. In Southern Vietnam, they can have three harvests. Indigenous families still living in the hills around Sapa survive by sustenance farming and selling handicrafts to tourists, often a bit too…enthusiastically, let’s say. But it’s for their survival and the survival of their children. Our guide, who comes from the Red Dao tribe and still lives in her hill village, said reproductive education is basically non-existent, so, without knowing how to prevent pregnancy, families can grow too large to support.The Vietnamese government has built schools for the hill tribes and expects children to go, but farming and other more survival-based activities can often take priority over education.

Sadly, the villages we went to almost felt like a zoo maybe? Or a museum? Like it the tribes were on display for tourist reasons. Though it perhaps wasn’t as bad as the Long Neck tribes on display in Thailand–which is a completely different, terrible story.

Here’s an example of what seemed to me to be a typical house from a hill tribe village:

P1110703The terraced rice paddies and tribal villages:

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For this post, I’ve focused on portraits of the women who hike miles in and out of Sapa every day to sell the things they made to tourists. On our hike to their village, we were followed by a group of women who were very nice and would help you (unnecessarily) on rocky parts of the path, ask you questions using the English they’ve picked up from other tourists, and give you little animals or flowers they’ve made from blades of grass. When you get to their village, they become…pushy, let’s say…in trying to get you to buy their crafts for really quite cheap prices (like $1). It can get tricky because if you buy from one, then the others also want you to buy, too, especially if they come from different families. What makes it even harder is that you know it’s about feeding their families and likely an outcome of having their traditional ways of life changed by modern influence and tourism.

Women wearing black outfits are Black Hmong; different Hmong groups have different colors: black, blue, green, white, flower. (I cannot guarantee I have all the colors of the Hmong tribes correct). Woman wearing red scarves on their heads are Red Dao.

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A Black Hmong woman who dyes textiles using indigo. She uses beeswax on the fabric before dying to create patterns on the cloth, then embroiders the fabric. I bought a bag from her. It took her three weeks to make. Cost: $25.

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A young family hiking to Sapa with their baby.

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Our Red Dao guide, who was AMAZING. Such a nice woman and provided insight into the culture of the Hmong and Dao peoples and the history/politics affecting their lives. Also, tourists heading into Cat Cat Village, a Hmong village tourist town.

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It takes years for a family to save enough money to buy a motorbike.

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Our guide showing us the indigo plant, used to dye textiles

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Red Dao and Hmong women hoping to sell their crafts to tourists in Sapa. They hiked miles from their hill villages to get there.

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Hmong women following us from Sapa as we hike with our guide toward some of the hill tribe villages.

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Though I will say things seemed better for these people than what I saw in Cambodia, which will be another series of posts.

If you would like to learn more about the Hmong history and people, here’s a great resource.

Fishing in the moat around Angkor Wat

Boys and men fishing from one of the two bridges that crosses that moat around the Angkor Wat temple complex. The square-shaped moat around the temple complex is 656 feet wide and has a perimeter of 3.4 miles. The bridges go through gates in the wall that also surrounds the complex, connecting to a causeway that runs directly to Angkor Wat.

A view of the moat and the side of the bridges, which run east-west.

photo (2) Fishing from the bridge into the moat.

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A boy on the bridge, one of the demon carvings looking down on him. The demon carvings run the length of one side of the bridge, it’s either gods or heroes on the other, I can’t remember which and I can’t find a website that says.

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