Choice views of Fansipan are the prime commodity on sale in Lao Cai’s signature destination, Sapa, a hill station high in the mountains which is a vestige of the French colonial era.
Before the French came, Sapa was home to several ethnic minorities, and now that the French are gone — they’re still there. Dzao, Red H’mong, and particularly Black H’mong have adapted to the tourist trade with considerable zeal, and their notoriously aggressive sales techniques should probably be attributed to how poor the region is, and how hard it is to eke out any kind of a living.Here you can come into close contact with a multitude of ethnic minorities. Chief among them are the Black Hmong, so named partly because their dress is black, ornamented with colourful brocade and silver jewellery, but mostly because of their black, fez-like headgear. The Red Hmong dress in black as well, but the women wrap up their hair in a red scarf bedecked with silver-beaded tassels. The Dzao also have distinctive headwear — a pile of coiled, braided hair, with an elaborate, rectangular ornament of silver metal sticking out of the top. They will happily remove their headdress for tourists to show that it’s just a hat and not their real hair.
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