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Photographer's Note

Traditionally farmers of rice and corn, vegetables and opium poppy, the H'mong are now to be seen in areas that have opened to tourism selling their handicrafts. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the small town of Sapa in Northwest Vietnam. Originally established by French colonialists as a hill station, the town looks and feels more like the Alps than Southeast Asia. It has seen a rapid rise in tourism over the last few years. These days the streets swarm with H'mong women and girls as young as seven selling their wares to tourists wearing their wonderful traditional clothes and beautiful smiles. This is the well known side of the H'Mong already very much pictured on TE.

It is not clear however that minority people get a fair share of tourism money. While tourists come there to see them, they do not own any of the shops, even less any of the lucrative hotels and restaurants. The only way they have to benefit of tourism is to endlessly get after foreigners in the streets of Sapa or during the treks. You are never alone there, always followed by 2 or 3 H'Mong women. The minute you show you are about to buy, 10 more pop up all around. Too much sellers, not enough for each to make a living. Not even clear they keep 100% of the very few money they get...

In the villages poverty is visible everywhere, a very big contrast with Sapa itself. And this is not about to change since children are not even going to school. Many of the older generations never attented school, and so have no understanding of the potential value of education. That coupled with their very labor-intensive farming practices means that many of their children either aren't sent to school or attend so sporadically that it benefits them very little.

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Additional Photos by JM Hullot (vincz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2604 W: 77 N: 5252] (19113)
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