Relationships between the 'hill-tribe' ethnics & the Vietnamese have been uneasy for centuries since Vietnamese expansion pushed hill-tribe people into the hills. The French colonials recognised the hill-tribes as a separate community but the Vietnam government later tried to assimilate them through abolishing tribal schools & courts, prohibiting stilt houses & through land appropriation. In response the hill-tribes formed guerilla movements, which were later courted by the USA during the American War. They paid dearly for collaborating with the Americans - large numbers of Vietnamese were settled amongst them, they in turn were relocated, educational & religious freedoms were clamped down on, & all amidst constant surveillance & harrasment. In my report covering the Ho Chi Min Trail I showed photograps of certain Ede houses in Buon Ma Thuot that the government wants you to see, as well as those of villagers near Ban Don where the reality of a still poor & marginalised people are readily apparent. In 2001 & 2004 hill-tribe protests erupted. They were quickly, even violently suppressed. These protests were centred around Pleiku & the government responded by prohibiting foreigners from visiting the area. The rules have been relaxed but in some areas you may need a permit to visit certain villages. I mention this as one who is tempted to visit villages along the route. We would ride into certain villages & witnessed the villagers taken totally by surprise at our arrival. If we stopped & dismounted from our bikes or took out our cameras they would flee to a safe distance & watch us from behind buildings or whatever. As someone who champions the differences in peoples, the preservation of their languages & cultures, I enjoyed greatly my years in northern Thailand amongst the hill-tribe peoples. They are people who proudly & justifiably thrive in their different customs, costumes & language. 'Assimilation' in Vietnam has brought about a community of poor people rarely seen in traditional clothing reduced (almost) to the lowest common denominator with little individuality. Fortunately the Vietnamese government has begun to see the tourist potential of these great people & slowly their customs, culture & languages are making a return, if only, presently, for commercial purposes. In witnessing gatherings of hill-tribe peoples such as those which recently took place in Hua Mae Kham (Thailand), lets hope the freedoms for those in Vietnam continue.