Around six million minority people (nearly two-thirds of Vietnam’s total) live in the northern uplands, mostly in isolated villages. The largest ethnic groups are Thai and Muong in the northwest, Tay and Nung in the northeast, and Hmong and Dao dispersed throughout the region. Historically, all these peoples migrated from southern China at various times throughout history: those who arrived first, notably the Tay and Thai, settled in the fertile valleys where they now lead a relatively prosperous existence, whereas late arrivals, such as the Hmong and Dao, were left to eke out a living on the inhospitable higher slopes. Despite government efforts to integrate them into the Vietnamese community, most continue to follow a way of life little changed over the centuries. For an insight into the minorities’ traditional cultures and highly varied styles of dress, visit Hanoi’s informative Museum of Ethnology before setting off into the mountains.

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