Ha Giang - What is it?
Ha Giang (pronounced Ha Zang) is the name of the northern most province and one of the poorest regions in all of Vietnam. Ha Giang’s landscape is comprised mostly of rocky mountains and large limestone formations, which are extremely picturesque but also a very difficult place to grow crops or make a living for the local people. Ha Giang also shares a very long border with China (about 270 kms / 167 miles), which makes it difficult to stop goods and people flowing across the border illegally. This combination of factors has unfortunately made Ha Giang an ideal spot for human traffickers and others to exploit the local poor population.
Who lives in Ha Giang?
Ha Giang has more than 40 ethnic groups that live within its borders - each with their own unique language, customs and cultures. The orphanage currently houses children from the Mông, Hán, Dao, Tày, Lô Lô, Nùng, and Kinh ethnic groups. As you can imagine, communicating between the different groups can be difficult at times. Children in Ha Giang that attend school are educated in Vietnamese, but not all children will necessarily receive an education if they live in far, remote areas. And the children that do end up in the orphanage may not have reached school age either, which can add another layer of difficulty in settling into a new environment, when they can’t understand the language, nor why they are no longer in their villages with their families.
What's life like in the villages?
Just like anywhere else in the world, inequality also exists in Ha Giang province. If you visit Ha Giang city at the base of the mountain plateau, you will find a thriving town filled with the usual trappings - modern buildings, flashing lights, fancy cars and bars and restaurants.
But as you venture up into the mountains things change drastically - mud brick homes, dirt floors, indoor plumbing if you're lucky, and tiny goat tracks that only an off-road motorbike can traverse - if that. This is where the ethnic minorities call home. Life is simpler and more hazardous here. But the people are hard-working, and are always happy to share what little they have with visitors.