Venerable Vietnam

The Toronto Star | Saturday, October 9th, 2010

hagiang article2

By Cindy Fan

HA GIANG, VIETNAM—The internal struggle is visible in the old man’s eyes. He can’t hold back any longer.

Curiosity wins over propriety. Grabbing Chris’ arm hair, he gives it a firm tug. Giggles and excited chatter erupt from the crowd.

For the people of remote Ha Giang, this isn’t a typical day at the market.

The province of Ha Giang is 300 kilometres from the capital of Hanoi in Vietnam’s mountainous north, bordering China. It is home to a multitude of hill tribes, dubbed “montagnards” by the French. Heading to this region is something I’ve wanted to do since seeing a photo of a Black Hmong girl, face beaming and dressed in an exuberantly colourful tribal outfit. The photo was a revelation about Vietnam’s astounding diversity, a window into a country with a total of 54 recognized ethnic groups. Read on…