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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tips for visiting minority villages when trekking Sapa, Vietnam

When visitting Sapa, espcially if you are a foriegn visitor, you will like to visit villagers here. May be ,thet following tips will help your trips be more exciting.

Visit  minority villages
Coming villages in small groups
For many people, one of the highlights of travelling in Sapa is the experience of visiting minority villages.
If at all possible, it’s preferable to visit the minority villages as a part of a small group, ideally four people or less, as this causes least disruption and allows for greater communication. There is a whole debate about the ethnics of cultural tourism and its negative impact on traditional ways of life.

Most villagers are genuinely welcoming and hospitable to foreigners, appreciating contact with Westerners and the material benefits which they bring.

Remember you are a guest
Behavior that we take for granted may cause offence to some ethnic minority people; remember you are a guest. Apart from being sensitive to the situation and keeping an open mind, the following simple rules should be observed when visiting the ethnic minority areas.
Dress modestly, in long trousers or skirt and T-shirt or shirt.

Dress modestly, in long trousers

When taking photographs
Be sensitive to people’s wishes when taking photographs, particularly of older people who are suspicious of camera; always ask permission first.

When enterting their house
Only go inside a house when invited and remove your shoes before entering.

When giving gifts
Small gifts, such as fresh fruit from the local market, are always welcome. However, there is a view that even this can foster begging, and that you should only ever give in return for some service or as a sign of appreciation for hospitality. A compromise is to buy craftwork produced by the villagers-most communities should have some embroidery, textiles or basketry for sale.

Trekking through villages

Learning local  basic terms of address
As a mark of respect, learn the local term of address, either in dialect or at least in Vietnamese, such as chao ong, chao ba.

Be careful with local environments
Try to minimize your impact on the often fragile local environment; take litter back to the towns and be sensitive to the use of wood and other scarce resources.

Opium using is illegal
Growing and using opium is illegal in Vietnam and is punished with a fine or prison sentence; do not encourage its production by buying or smoking opium.

Trekking practicalities
Foreigners are now permitted to stay in minority villages, which has opened up to the possibility of trekking, and created a small industry focused on Sapa.You can arrange a tailored individual programme through a tour agent; it is important to ask for a guide with a good level of English who is familiar with the villages and the minorities’ culture traditions.

Note that it’s not a good ideal to turn up at a minority’s village and expect to find accommodation; you host may find themselves in trouble with the authorities and there’s also a growing problem of petty crime, particularly around Sapa. Far better to make arrangements beforehand with someone who know the current situation. If you go with local guide, you are also less likely to cause offence and will probably have a more interesting time.

Clothers when walking in mountains
It is very important to ear the right clothing when walking in these mountains; strong boots with ankle support are the best footwear, though you can get away with training shoes in the dry season. Choose thin, loose clothing-long trousers offer some protection from thorns and leeches; wear a hat and sun block; take plenty of water; rain coast and carry a basic medical kit.

If you plan on spending the night in a village you will need warm clothing as temperatures can drop to around freezing, and you may want to take a sleeping bag, mosquito net and food, though may be provided on organized tours.

Carrying a stick when trekking
Finally, dogs can be a problem when entering minority villages, so it is a good ideal to carry a strong stick when trekking, and always be watchful for the poisonous snakes that are common in this area.

Recommend a Sapa Trekking & Homestay itinerary from ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA: 4-day tour with 2-day trek and 2-night homestay

Hanoi - Lao Cai - Sapa - Hanoi 

At an elevation of 1,600 meters, Sapa is a delightful former French hill station situated in the mountainous region of Vietnam's northwest, close to the Chinese border. The region is home to many ethnic minority groups, each wearing traditional and colorful attire. This trip includes a trek through the hills and valleys of the Sapa region, discovering several different minorities along the way. You will experience overnight accommodation in the hospitable villages of Giay and Tay ethnic minorities. The apparent hardships are worth it though as we walk through some of the most spectacular scenery that Vietnam has to offer and experience unique villages culture.

Highlights 
Awesome scenery
Rice terraces
Colorful minority groups 
Homestays in minority villages

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