Sapa is inhabited by minor groups of Black Hmong, Red Dao, Giay and Tay, who have a system of beliefs, traditions and customs unlike main communities you know in the world. When trekking in Sapa and visiting the villages, you should notice 9 special points below.
1/ Don’t sit at a central room
A dwelling of a ethnic minority in northern Vietnam is divided into many rooms, in which the core room is always the worship place. Thus, absolutely don’t sit if you are present at the middle house, or at a central room. When visit home of an ethnic family, should follow instructions of the host. First chairs placed on top of a table are for parents; if parents were passed away, no one is allowed to sit on these seats.
2/ Mind “spirit columns”
Inside a local house, there is a biggest and highest column, called “cot cai” (a main column), believed as the place where ghosts reside. Don’t hang clothes, don’t sit and lean on these “spirit columns”.
3/ Join in ceremonies – please don’t
In villages, if you find Black Hmong or Red Dao people are carrying out a sacrificial ceremony or exorcism, don’t arbitrarily join in, because they don’t want to have participation of strange individuals.
It’s possible to realize that villagers are performing a ceremony via the feature following: in front of a village gate, there will be a bunch of green leaves hung on a tall pillar, which is erected at a solemn place so as that everybody can see and avoid entering into the village.
4/ Love children, but don’t touch their head
If you encounter minor children, completely don’t touch and kiss their head. Ethnic tribes consider that this such action will frighten kids and make them easily get sick and deceases.
5/ Be careful with sacred places
Access a village, if you see a beautiful, clean and cool place, don’t hurry to rest, eat and drink there. It’s possibly the common worship place of a whole village, as an extremely sacred location to villagers.
6/ Whistle: A bad action
Another taboo for travelers, don’t whistle while strolling and sightseeing around Sapa villages. The locals suppose that whistling sound will recall ghosts and devils coming to their village.
7/ Don’t turn bowls upside down
Turning bowls upside down is prohibited because just only shamans are permitted to do this to expel evil spirits.
8/ In communication, don’t point fingers forward
If a host invites you to drink water or wine but you don’t want, should cleverly deny in order that the host understand and sympathize.
While communicating with indigenous people, don’t point your fingers at ahead. Hmong people believe that this action shows dissatisfied attitude or contempt for the opposite talking person.
Remember don’t wear clothes of undyed white linen when you trek around villages in Sapa, because this is the color of a funeral.
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