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Ethnic Minorities in Sapa

H’Mong and Dao are the most populated minority groups in Sapa… consist of 75% of the whole population.

The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand

H’Mong woman in Sapa

There are many ethnic minorities live in and around Sa Pa, including the ethnic Vietnamese Kinh people. The other eight different ethnic minority groups are found in Sa Pa such as: H’mong (pronounced ‘mong’), Dao (pronounced as ‘yao’), Tay, Giay (pronounced as ‘zai’), Hoa (ethnic Chinese), and Xa Pho (a sub-set of the Phu La minority group). However, the last four groups comprise fewer than 500 people in total. The population of Sapa town was estimated at 36.000 of which 52% were H’mong, 25% were Dao, 15% were Kinh, 5% were Tay, and 2% were Giay.

Most of the ethnic minority people work their land on sloping terraces since the vast majority of the land is mountainous. Their staple foods are rice and corn. Rice represents for very nature of being a labour-intensive crop, makes the daily fight for survival paramount. 

The other women, in particular, make items such as ethnic clothing and blankets to sell to tourists. Making the conversation with them can be very rewarding and their spoken English is impressive. Doing this in Sa Pa town will sometimes lead to a scrum if other vendors smell a potential sale.

Most of the children in Sapa have to work to support their family financially…


Children from these ethnic minorities often support their families financially by selling trinkets to tourists or play a role as a local guide. Because of their early and frequent encounters with English native speakers, they grow up being very fluent in speaking English. Normally, they trade small metal or silver trinkets, embroidered pillow cases and friendship bands in the main town, and often walk for several hours from their villages to the town, perhaps skipping school. At the end of the day, some of them will take a motorbike ride back to their village, some walk home and some sleep in the market. To encourage kids to go back to school to further their education, one might consider buying from adult merchants rather than the kids.

Girls and boys get married at a young age (around 15–18) and often have two children by the time they are 20 years old. Poverty has led to a lot of girls leaving their villages each day to go trading in Sapa Town, and depending on their luck, may only have one meal per day.

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