Introducing Bac Ha
Bac Ha (Bắc Hà in Vietnamese) is a town in north-western Vietnam, on the border with the town of Hekou in Yunnan, China. The main reason to visit this town is its colorful Sunday market. Many travellers place Bac Ha on their itinerary when they visit Sapa. Bac Ha is truly a destination of adventure and hill tribe markets. The region is really famed for its beautiful rugged karst mountain range, exotic cultures and green development.
Sleepy Bac Ha wakes up for the riot of colour and commerce that is its Sunday market, when the lanes fill to choking point and villagers flock in from the hills and valleys. Once the barter, buy and sell is done and the day-tripper tourist buses from Sapa have left, the town rolls over and goes back to bed for the rest of the week.
Despite being surrounded by countryside just as lush and interesting as Sapa, Bac Ha has somehow flown under the radar as a trekking base so far. In town, woodsmoke fills the morning air, the main street is completely bereft of hawkers, and chickens and pigs snuffle for scraps in the back lanes where a small clutch of traditional adobe houses valiantly clings on in the age of concrete.
Just out of town, trails meander through swooping verdant valleys with their hill-slope rice terraces, connecting the tiny villages of 11 hill-tribe groups. The colourful Flower Hmong are the most visible, but other ethnic minorities in the area include Dzao, Giay (Nhang), Han (Hoa), Xa Fang, Lachi, Nung, Phula, Tay, Thai and Thulao.
If you're not worried about a lack of in-town amenities, and are turned off by Sapa's hustle, Bac Ha may just tick your boxes as an alternative base from where to launch yourself out on highland hikes.
- Sunday Market. Bac Ha's market is frequented by roughly 10 of the local hill tribes so offers a large range of local produce and some tourist gifts.
- Lung Phin Market is roughly 12km from Bac Ha and takes place every Sunday.
- Can Cau Market is roughly 20km north of Bac Ha and takes place every Saturday.
- Coc Ly Market is roughly 35km from Bac Ha and takes place every Tuesday.
There are two waterfalls located around Bac Ha. Ask the locals for directions (eg. Restaurant 36). One is called Thai Giang Pho, although most locals that I asked did not now this name. One waterfall is 10 km in direction of Ban Pho next to the street. Be sure to bring swimsuits...
- Spa, (Next the the lake). There is a spa and massage place, with some fitness equipments next to the lake, close to the market side. Count 100.000 VND for a steam sauna and 100.000 for a herbal bath. Great to relax after trekking. Staff doesn't speak english but can get you in touch with an english speaker by phone. 200.000VND.
- Trekking, (everywhere). Hire a guide to do a two three days trekking around Bac Ha, spend the night in a homestay in the mountain and visit Can cau market (buffalos, birds, fruits and everything). You can find a guide in most hotels and restaurants. Other trekking circuits are available. 70USD.