For many people, one of the highlights of traveling in Sapa is the experience of visiting minority villages. If possible, it’s recommended 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. Most villagers are genuinely welcoming and hospitable to foreigners, appreciating contact with Westerners and the material benefits which they bring.
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.
– Be sensitive to people’s wishes when taking photographs, particularly of older people who are suspicious of camera; always ask permission first.
– Only go inside a house when invited and remove your shoes before entering.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.