Thanks to her excellent English speaking skills, Ni Ni was able to not only lead us on our treks, but also provided great insight in to what life is like as a member of the Black H’mong ethnic minority group.
At just a few years younger than myself, Ni Ni was a mother of two adorable daughters, a self-taught and fluent English speaker, an entrepreneur, and the main breadwinner for her family.
Traditionally the Black H’mong women are known for making beautiful indigo dyed cloth and sewing intricate hand embroidery –both of which are taught to girls are taught at a young age. Each family owns a plot of land and rice terraces that they use for subsistence farming.
Very few families sell produce or rice in the markets so their only source of income often comes from selling cloth or embroidered handicrafts or from becoming trek guides. Ni Ni told us that when she was younger she earned money for her family by selling her handicrafts and speaking to tourists along the way.
She learned English slowly but surely, simply by asking “What is your name?” “Where are you from?” and having kind, friendly tourists respond and teach her more words.
Today she is able to provide the sole income for her family because of her fluent English skills. If that doesn’t make you think twice before ignoring one of the street sellers in and around Sapa, I don’t know what would!
While every family owns land, this land is only passed down to the sons of the family while women simply move from their father’s land to their husband’s. Despite this disparity, I love that the women in the Black H’mong community enjoy working outside of the house and are motivated to create their own businesses and learn new skills.
Ni Ni said that her husband stays home and takes care of the children while she leads treks every day and that they have been putting off having a third child (surprising because she ‘needs’ to have a son to pass down her husband’s land to) because she wants to build up her trekking business first.
Along our trek we passed through Ni Ni’s village and met her twin sister, mom, and two daughters. Everyone we encountered in the village was so welcoming and kind. I loved getting to know Ni Ni and her family and I can’t wait to go back to Sapa, this time to stay at Ni Ni’s homestay.
Highly recommend Ni Ni for anyone visiting Sapa. Her spoken English is excellent but she cannot read or write in English so please call her–
Hmong Guide – Sapa
Phone Number: 01 68 578 1022