In addition to the enjoying the scenery around the mountainous region, visitors are drawn to Sapa because of the unique cultural setup of the area. The villages around Sapa are home to several local tribes, each occupying certain villages in the area, and they still keep a lot of traditions handed down from their previous generations. What makes this especially unique is that there are several distinct tribes represented in the area, and each tribe could be identified from the clothes and head bands that the villagers wear. Even the tribe’s names as known to the visitors were indicative of what they wear, like the Black H’mong people wearing black outfit, and the Red Dzao people wearing red hats.
One popular activity is to hike/trek to the village to see and meet these hill tribes and see what life is like in the village. Some more adventurous visitors who want to get closer to the action can also opt to arrange a homestay with a local family. Some of the villagers learned that many visitors would like to experience first hand what it’s like to live in their village, so this created somewhat an industry where they would open up their home as a local ‘bed and breakfast’ and provide experience to foreigners to live like they do for a short period of time. Another activity that was also interesting to many visitors was to go to a weekend market in the area that was typically attended by many of these local tribesmen. During the week, each tribe stays in their own village without much interaction with others. But during the weekend market, people from different tribes would come to meet and exchange goods with each other. For tourists, this is a great time to see many of these tribesmen wearing their colorful outfit at the same time in one place.
Since we were in Sapa only for a couple of days during the weekdays, we didn’t get a chance to observe the weekend market. However, it’s pretty easy to spot the folks from the area’s hill tribes in downtown Sapa. There were many ladies from the Black H’mong and the Red Dzao tribes who walked around the town with some handicrafts that they made and tried to sell those to the foreigners they met in town. We saw them from the moment we arrived in town, and continued on to the time when we started our hike to a couple of the villages.
The photo below was one of the Black H’mong ladies we encountered during our hike. You could see in this case her colorful headband along witht the black garment she wore.