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Published: October 30th 2009
A "Quan họ" singer
This girl performs "Quan họ" folk songs on the boat cruising along the Red River in Hanoi. She wears traditional dress of Bắc Ninh province in northern Vietnam.
There are 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam, of which the Viet (or Kinh) is the largest group (making up 86.2% of the country's population). The Viet people mainly live in the Red River Delta, the central coast region, the Mekong Delta and major cities. The other 53 ethnic minority groups are scattered over mountain areas or plains spreading from the North to the South.
My photos in this blog were taken in some regions of Vietnam. After traveling throughout Vietnam, I've seen people of more than 30 ethnic groups in the country. During my visit to the mountain areas of northern Vietnam, I went to villages of the Thai, Dzao, Lo Lo, Pa Then, Muong, Tay, Nung, Cong, La Hu, San Diu, Day, Pa Di, Hani, Lu, La Chi, Black H'mong, Flowery H'mong, Blue H'mong, Red H'mong and White H'mong people (based on the colors of their dresses). While traveling along the National Highway No. 9 in Quảng Trị province, central Vietnam on the DMZ tour, the guide took us to a village of the Vân Kiều Bru ethnic minority group. There is a village of the K'ho people near Đà Lạt city in the Central Highlands and tourists often
A Dzao bride at wedding in Sìn Hồ, Lai Châu province
I was lucky to be invited to a wedding of the Dzao ethnic minority people in Sìn Hồ, Lai Châu province, North West Vietnam. The bride is on the right side of this photo. She is 16 years old. (Sep 2012)
go there when visiting the city. I also met the Ede, Bahnar, Sedang, M'nong, Jrai and Lao ethnic people living in three provinces of the Central Highlands. When traveling on a one day tour to Yang Bay waterfall near Nha Trang city, you will see music performances by the Raglay ethnic minority people. They use various types of musical instrument same as the ethnic minority people in the Central Highlands. The southernmost region of Vietnam is the area where the Chinese and Khmer ethnic people are living. I also visited two Khmer temples in Sóc Trăng province.
Hà Giang, the northernmost province of Vietnam, is home to 22 ethnic groups, so it's interesting to travel in this region. I visited the province on 3 trips and reached the northernmost point of Vietnam. There are markets of the ethnic minority people in the highlands, and lots of old houses as well as beautiful mountain scenery in this area. The best time to visit this region is April, September and October. At the other time of the year, it may be too cold, foggy or rain.
The North East of Vietnam is home to the Tay and Nung ethnic minority
Red Dzao women in Sapa town
These women sell souvenirs in Sapa at night. They are in the Red Dzao ethnic minority group in north west Vietnam. They wear red scarf on their heads.
groups. There is a small number of H'mong and Dzao people living in this region. Ba Bể lake and Bản Giốc waterfall are the two famous tourist sites and you can see some villages of the Tay and Nung ethnic minority people over there.
Sapa town is the most popular destination for tourists, as it's easy to reach the place by night train and by bus. Trekking to some villages of the Red Dzao and Black H'mong people is the main tourist activity in this region. Black H'mong people speak English and French very well, as they meet and talk with tourists everyday. They can work as guides, or sell souvenirs, or lease their houses (tourists home stay). While tourism brings income to the locals and improves their lives, there are also negative impacts on their life styles.
Some ethnic minority groups living in the North West of Vietnam plant rice on the terraced paddies. October is the best time for photography as the rice become yellow during the harvest. The terraced rice paddy-fields in Sapa are one of the best 7 terraced rice paddy-fields in the world based on the votes of an American magazine. However, I
myself found that the terraced rice paddy-fields in Mù Cang Chải district of Yên Bái province and in Hoàng Su Phì district of Hà Giang province are the most beautiful ones in Vietnam. When you go toward the east, there is Băc Hà Sunday market of the Flowery H'mong people. The locals leave their home early at 4am and walk to the market. They bring their own products to sell at the market and buy necessary things for their families. It's also a chance for them to meet other H'mong people, eat their favorite food "thắng cố" (mixture of all parts of horses) and drink much corn wine. I've seen some photos of the men who were drunk after the Sunday market, but it was taken in Hà Giang province. To see Blue H'mong people, you should go to Mộc Châu highlands in Sơn La province. In general, the ethnic people in this region are very poor, as their income is mainly based on the farming works or raising pigs and chicken.
When you travel along another side of the North West region (Hoà Bình - Sơn La - Điện Biên Phủ - Lai Châu), you'll see many villages
A girl in traditional dress of Lô Lô ethnic group
At a village of Lô Lô ethnic group in Hà Giang province.
of the Thai and Muong ethnic people. They live in stilt houses, do farming works and weave fabric. I'm not sure if they use the same language as the Thai in Thailand. I saw a western tourist talked with them some words in Thai language, but they didn't understand.
After 3 trips to the North West of Vietnam during July and October 2012, I must admit that Lai Châu is my favorite place. It's a poor and remote province (420km from Hanoi). The landscape (mountain scenery) is so beautiful and the ethnic minority people are so kind and friendly. I was invited to attend a wedding of a young Dzao ethnic couple in Sìn Hồ and to have dinner with a family of the H'mong people in Đào San.
Vietnamese is taught at all schools in Vietnam. Other ethnic minority groups also have their own languages, traditional customs and dresses. I belong to the Viet (Kinh) group and our traditional dresses in northern Vietnam are "Áo Dài" or "Áo tứ thân" (photo No. 33). The later dress is rarely worn now and it's often used by singers when performing the folk songs or during the festivals.
Long house of the Ede people
Stairs into a long house of the Ede ethnic minority people in Buôn Thá village, Buôn Ma Thuột city, the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
my trip to the Central Highlands of Vietnam (Buôn Mê Thuột - Pleiku - Kon Tum), I did make an elephant ride in Buôn Đôn village (50km away from Buôn Mê Thuột city). While traveling along the National Highway No. 14, I saw coffee, rubber and pepper trees. The Central Highlands is one of the most interesting regions of Vietnam with very special culture, beautiful lakes and waterfalls. Some huge communal houses of the ethnic minority groups were built in this area and their gong performance is one of the UNESCO intangible heritages in Vietnam.
You can see more photos of traditional dresses in the following blogs: Vietnamese traditional dress
(Áo Dài) Bắc Hà Sunday market
(Flowery H'mong people) Hà Giang - Part 1 (Quản Bạ & Yên Minh) Hà Giang - Part 2 (Phố Cáo & Sủng Là) Hà Giang - Part 3 (Đồng Văn & Lũng Cú) Hà Giang - Part 4 (Mapileng pass & Mèo Vạc)
Note: The Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi is the place where you can get information and see photos of all 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam. Here is the link to Museum of Ethnology
You can get to this museum by bus No. 14 from Hoàn Kiếm lake in Hanoi's center or rent a car/taxi to the place. It's closed on Mondays and national holidays. During the Lunar New Year (Tết) there are many activities at the
museum. See my photos in a blog published in February 2009: New Year's activities during Tết 2009
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