With the vast majority of hill tribe minorities in Sapa formally uneducated and therefore unemployed I have put together a list of socially responsible and/or independent people and places to invest your precious cash and time with. I hope that this guide will give tourists more opportunity to make a conscious and caring choice when visiting Sapa.
Ethos- Spirit of Community – 56 Nguyen Chi Thanh
Ethos is an established social enterprise, community center and tour company that provides authentic and experiential activities with hill tribe communities. Motorbike tours, markets, home stays, Hmong batik classes, weaving workshops and trekking, what ever your interest Ethos endeavours to make everyones time in Sapa a unique and personalised experience.
The Hill Station – 7 Mường Hoa
A delicious restaurant, deli and boutique hotel that combines the history of the Indochina period with the preservation of hill tribe culture. All the staff at The Hill Station (in Sapa and Hoi An) are Hmong with the exception of the receptionist, accountant and owner. Serving up a sumptuous range of intercontinental cheeses and wines, alongside Hmong home style specialities.
Indigo Cat – 46 Fansipan Street
Buying authentic handmade tribal textiles from local and remote indigenous women in the Sapa area, this boutique style retail environment is perfect for browsing without the pressure to buy. Head here for some of the best handpicked textiles in town owed by a knowledgable Hmong/French family.
Sapa Minorities Handicraft Shop – Fansipan Street
This is Coo Coo, possibly the most friendliest lady in town. Coo Coo sells handmade textile products made by the women in her local village of Lao Chai and is one of very few women in the city that rents her own shop. She is a independent trader, has been open for 1 year and speaks fluent English. When she is not head down sewing away at her latest creation, she can be seen waving and smiling at passers by.
Sapa Market – 412 Điện Biên Phủ
Once smack bang in Sapa center, this local market has now relocated 2km away on the outskirts of town past the lake. On the 2nd floor in the right corner the market houses legal stalls from Red Dao, Black and Flower Hmong textile traders. You can get everything here from full traditional dress to real silver tribal jewelery. With lack of passing tourist trade the women here can be a little desperate so kindly consider buying from more than one trader.
Hope Center – Ta Phin Village
Is a community project offering free shelter, clothing and English lessons to street kids in and around Sapa. Visitors can enjoy a home stay, cycle tours or volunteer a variety of skills or services listed here on Workaway.com . Donations welcome.
Sapa Sisters – 9 Fansipan Street
Hmong/Swedish run Sapa Sisters is the only female Hmong tour company in the area. Initially set up to help provide Hmong women with independent financial security, Sapa Sisters aims to create self-sustaining employment opportunities with fair wages and the chance for employees to invest in their local communities. Sapa Sisters also have paid maternity leave, interest free loans and free healthcare at private hospitals in Hanoi.
Paradise View – 18 Phạm Xuân Huân
“Sapa Paradise View Hotel is staffed by local, ethnic people, who come from lovely villages in the Sapa area. You can talk with them to discover the customs and habits of ethnic minorities in Sapa.”
Hemp & Embroidery – Fansipan Street
A couple of doors down from Indigo Cat, Lan and her husband have opened a Hmong interiors and accessories store selling gorgeous hand-made products from hemp. Wall hangings, handbags and blankets are plentiful, and you can even take in your own fabric and commission a design of your choice in under 24hrs.
Boutique Sapa Hotel – 41 Fansipan St.
A romantic looking luxury hotel and restaurant employing Hmong and Dao staff. The accommodation boasts fantastic expansive views of the valley and is tastefully decorated with hill tribe aesthetics.
Have you used any of these services in Sapa? Are you or do you know of any other organisation helping hill tribes in the Sapa area that should be added to this guide? Please get in touch or add your comments below, we would love to hear from you.
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Thank you to Ethos Spirit for hosting my time in Sapa, as always the research, opinions and writing is my own.
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