Above, our guide, Khang, of the Thai ethnic minority, plays the flute while the H'mong women and girls look on.
The journey to the Sapa region was well worth it, even though everyone who ate the meal at the homestay (below) got food poisoning and spent the following night throwing up. Hey, everyone needs a good cleanse now and then, right?
I was especially interested in visiting the H'mong villages because there are many H'mong refugees in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
FromwhatI understand, H'mong hill people from Laos helped the U.S. during the Vietnam/American war by becoming ground troops in Laos, preventing Ho Chi Min from distributing supplies. It was illegal for the U.S. to have ground troops in Laos, so most people didn't know about this "Secret Army" until years later.
The U.S. government convinced the H'mong minority of Laos to help the U.S. during the war by telling them that the Vietnamese wanted to take their land. When the U.S. pulled out of the war, the H'mong were victims of genocide by the newly formed Lao People's Democratic Republic.
Of the 300,000 H'mong in Laos at the start of the war, 30,000 died as a direct result of the fighting, 100,000 escaped to Thailand or elsewhere, and 90,000 remained in Laos and many of these were subjected to execution or torture by the Laos government. Many of those who escaped eventually became refugees in the U.S.
I pulled this information from a short internet search, but feel free to chime in because I really don't know much about the Vietnam war history.