Photographer's Note

Tourists often visualize tribal people like the Hmong as living in a state of bliss - in the cool and quiet of pristine mountains, away from urban pollution and stress. The reality is quite different. The dry season finds villages filled with smoke from burning fields. The wet season turns the trails and village streets into a swamp. Women and children must trudge for miles in search of ever more scarce firewood. Opium addiction, alchoholism are depressingly common. Hmong are denied citizenship, sometimes harrassed and cheated by townspeople.

Tourism is a two-sided coin; The drove of tourists brings money to an impoverished area and has reinstalled a sense of pride in a province heavily controlled by the government. Like many places in Vietnam, a quick sell is a good sell, and the Hmong are as eager to receive the tourist dollar as other businessmen in the country. Despite being the main draw, the Hmong do not own any of the hotels that pack Sapa, so their livelihood relies on selling their wares to tourists. While Sapa takes in gorgeous rice terraces and shows a picturesque view of rural Vietnam, it remains one side of life. The other is a much harder life where the tourism dollar is gold. The tourist-Hmong relationship is well established. It is what it is, a business transaction...
Has the Hmong lost its way in the fight for the tourist dollar?

As I left the highlands, heading back for humid Hanoi, I felt that I was perhaps watching the last stand of a vanishing way of life .....

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Additional Photos by abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6595 W: 150 N: 14427] (63605)
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