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Photographer's Note

The Black Hmong hill tribe are by far the largest ethnic minority group in and around Sapa who occupy the least hospitable land at the highest altitudes when they first arrived in North West Vietnam from Southern China in the late 18th century. The immigration intensified in the 19th century and continued sporadically until the beginning of the 60s. This was where I ended up, on a cool cloudy morning during my photo routine after a slow bumpy ride along the muddy unpaved mountain road on my rugged rented Russian motorbike. The roads can be pretty poor condition with all sorts of obstacles along the way such as water crossings, pot holes, domestic pigs and water buffaloes and the occasional truck as well as heaps of other motorbikes loaded to the hilt with all manner of things.

Lao Chai Black Hmong village is about 10 km south of Sapa town, a small hamlet nestled among the hills. I had company of two elaborately dressed Black Hmong women, both young mothers who giggled shyly when I tried to exchange greetings with them. One was carrying a large woven basket and the other was a young mother of two. They are called Black Hmong due to their deep indigo blue dress they wear which is actually hemp that's dyed violet from plants grown locally and that explains also why most of the women have darker than usual hands. They wrap their legs, from ankle to knee, in black velvet which is held in place by a colourful band. Embellished with embroidery, they decorate themselves with many silver bracelets and large silver hoop earrings, often spotted with head gear, a tall round black hat and finishes off with colorful comb embed in their hair.

Tourism has not undermined local culture I supposed, and this has turned a small percentage of them business-minded, but it has also made them less shy of strangers. Indeed, one could say they are quite used to foreigners by now. Ethno-tourism in Sapa is less about reality and more about giving tourists what it is they have traveled so far to see and providing a much-needed income to the tribes. But through my observations, sadly the Black Hmong still remain at the bottom of the economic ladder like any other ethnic minorities..

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Additional Photos by abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3914 W: 144 N: 8972] (38884)
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