Go to Ta Phin exploring the customs of the Red Dao

Hmong, Red Dao and Giay are the 3 most crowded ethnic groups residing in Sapa, Lao Cai. Each of them has its own cultural identities that make them attractive to tourists. One of the names that should be mentioned is Ta Phin Village – the gathering place of the Red Dao with their worth-discovering- traditional customs.

Leaving in the bustle cities, tourists shall be surprised when facing the long path with two sides of terrace rice fields which are turning yellow with matured grains. The field shores are continuous leading to Ta Phin Village.


The long path with two sides of terrace rice fields

From the centre of Sapa, you can hire a motorbike to ride ti Ta Phin which is around 12 km from there to the East. On the road leading to Ta Pin, you will see lots of winding high slope sections which require your good driving skill o be able to travel while admiring landscapes.

The first destination for you in Ta Phin should be the ancient monastery – the practising place of 12 nuns expelled from Japan to refuge to Lao Cai. The remains are just the ruins of monastery walls, but its cultural and architectural values under French colony are preserved.

The practising place of 12 nuns expelled from Japan to refuge to Lao Cai

Entering more deeply into the village, you should send your transport to a local keeper and then wander to visit the village as the roads are quite small. The locals here welcome you with their smiles and greetings right when you stop at the village. They will ask you to come to visit their house and introduce about their cultural identities which lie in the furniture arrangement.

The Dao often build their houses in 3 ways: earth house, stilt house and mix-house. The majority of the Dao in Ta Phin prefer the earth house with 3 or 5 standing compartments. In their opinion, the earth house allows them a place for Ban Vuong worshipping. 

The Red Dao often live in a multi-compartment-house with 2 or 3 generations. There are two kitchens in the house in which one for cooking and one for heating in winter. In some corner at the centre compartment, it is easy to see some kinds of fruits and vegetable which the locals store for using in a long time. On the roof, there are a lot of corns for used all year round as this kind of grain is harvested only once a year.

Beside the main work of 1 corn season and 2 wet rice seasons per year, the Dao women also weave brocades or pick medicinal leaves to provide a special service for tourists coming there. Since old time, the Dao have used medicinal leaves picked from forest to cook water which they bath at the year-end to welcome a new year. As this way of bathing is good for health, many people have created a service to serve tourists or sell leaves for them to bring back.

A multi-compartment-house with 2 or 3 generations

A traditional bathing basket of the Red Dao often includes more than 10 kinds of leaves or sometimes up to 120 different kinds. Ms. Ly Ta Me (55 years old) said that around 3 kg of medicinal leaves are enough for a basket of 50 litres bathing water. They are boiled in around 20 minutes before being diluted at the temperatures of about 500C. The diluted water is used for tourists to immersed their bodies between 15 to 30 minutes. 

Medicinal bathing is discovered with numerous usages of defeating diseases including muscle and bone aches, flu or to enhance heath of women after birth giving or illness. When tourists coming to Sapa choose to conquer Fansipan Mountain, this method of bathing will be a great idea to ease the situation of muscle and bone aches and their health shall be quickly recovered. At present, one kg of medicinal leaves is sold at 50.000VND which is suitable for tourists.


A traditional bathing basket of the Red Dao

Following the local women to walk around the village, you can learn about the custom of naming children in the village which is very interesting. Some popular first names here are Lý, Tẩn, Phan, Lò. There are some certain regulations in naming both middle name and last name. 

In a family, the eldest daughter has the middle name of Ta. The next daughter’s middle name is Lo and then San, Su, Man. For son, the above middle names of daughter become the last names of son. For example, there are 3 sons in a family, their name shall respectively are Lò Láo Tả, Lò Láo Lở, Lò Láo San. It is true that the Red Dao have some interesting naming regulations which are also easy to remember.

Besides, the specialty in culture of this community is also shown in their traditional clothes. They are all made by the locals by the activities of weaving or knitting. Traditionally, the traditional dress of the Red Dzao includes scarf, hat, shirt, trouser, bell, shoes and the cloth for foot wrapping. A nice dress is the one made from 5 basic colours in which red is the main colour. The head scarf is decorated with the image of tiger, flowers with the major colour of red and white frills. It has currently been simplified to be used easily in daily life. For shirt and trouser, the main colour is black green and the bell is often long to wrap 3 or 4 rounds on body before being tied in the back. The decorating patterns on the trouser are made more sophisticatedly. The patterns on shirt frills and lower parts of two legs are in red-yellow-white square, rectangular, pine tree shapes and so on.

When being taken on, the patterns look harmonious, showing the friendliness and closing felling to nature of the Red Dao.

With the simple living style in the house of some generations, the locals here are always willing to welcome tourists. They also have the desire of interacting with new and different things as well as the chance to change or improve their lives thanks to tourism services they provide.


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