The Hmong are just one out of 53 ethnic groups inhabiting the highlands of Vietnam. To see Hmong in action, the best option is to visit one of the several markets. Depending on the area Flower Hmong, White Hmong, Black Hmong, Thay, Thai or Dzao are selling their stuff on different days of the week. There are even backward markets, those markets are held every day back, so if today is Sunday, next week the market will be on Saturday, then Friday… The market scene is vibrant and rustic! A row of ambulant barbers is placed on the sidewalk and take care of their customers while shoppers flock around in search of new trends, traditional tribal clothes or just their weekly grocery. There are cows, puppies or birds changing ownership. Some market ladies reminded me on witch doctors offering their alternative medicine such as indefinable roots, dried mushrooms, wood bark or certain parts of fluffy animals. There is 3-5 years old rice wine waiting in jerrycans for shoppers to try and buy.

Most of those markets have one thing in common, ethnic teenagers are dressing up to attract the other gender since the size of the small communes and distances in between makes it hard for them to find the right one. Nevertheless, in most cases the parents choose the “right one”. I love the fact that those markets are 100 percent authentic, there is no show for tourists. It’s more like a weekly event for the shoppers and but for the sellers. People do business in the early morning, then go to eat Pho together the typical noodle soup of Vietnam, smoke the bamboo pipe and venture back home. Some bought a cow, some a jerrycan of rice wine, some a bunch of glimmery clothes and some might have found a new boyfriend.

The most memorable thing when visiting Hmong territory was “the bad taste party” I encountered in Dong Van. While the Black Hmong and the Flower Hmong have a flair for color combinations, their colleagues go a bizarre way. The White Hmong mix golden sequins with green pencil skirts, combine bright tones with pastel ruffles and mummify their head with a colorful woolen scarf.

Enjoy the small overview of Hmong portraiture or get the whole portion of ethnic life here. Feel free to visit my webshop if you’re interested in prints, rights, or downloads for personal use