Bac Ha Market
off Tran Bac road, Bac Ha district, Lao Cai province, VietnamMore information Opening hours
Every Sunday from early moring to 2:00 pm
This Sunday market is Bac Ha’s big draw. There's an increasing range of handicrafts for sale, but it’s still pretty much a local affair. Bac Ha market is a magnet for the local hill-tribe people, above all the exotically attired Flower Hmong. If you can, stay overnight in Bac Ha on Saturday, and get here early before hundreds of day trippers from Sapa start arriving.
Flower H’mong women wear several layers of dazzling clothing. These include an elaborate collar-cum-shawl that’s pinned at the neck and an apron-style garment; both are made of tightly woven strips of multicoloured fabric, often with a frilly edge. Highly ornate cuffs and ankle fabrics are also part of their costume, as is a checked headscarf (often electric pink or lime green).
Being a minority ethnic people market, Bac Ha market is located in 80 km from Sapa, and about 76 km from the Lao Cai train station, Bac Ha is a remote district of Lao Cai province. Bac Ha market which takes place every Sunday is famous for the originality and authenticity that the traders still preserve. One can reach Bac Ha market by booking a van or tour from Sapa, which is about 3 hours away.
Every Sunday, Bac Ha hosts the biggest fair near the mountainous highlands and the Chinese border. It is the largest and most colourful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. Some walk several hours for the weekly opportunity to trade and barter food, animals, clothes and household goods. 80km from Sapa, Bac Ha Market is not only the place for buying and selling, but also a place for cultural and sentiment exchanging. On the market days, right from the early morning, all paths and mountain roads are full of people and horses pouring to the market. People usually sit in groups around a soup pan (“thang co”) eating and chatting.
Many different ethnic groups such as Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere. The market was very crowded, local products for sale or barter are carried on horseback. Besides the usual items like pigs, cows, chickens, and ducks, Bac Ha Market sold dogs. As dogs were available as cuts of meat, they were also available live, right next to the live pigs, chickens, and other livestock. There was a brisk trade at the market for everything from hand-embroidered skirts to all manner of 4-legged animals. The “fresh” meat section is not for the faint of heart and might steer more than a few visitors in the direction of strict vegetarianism.
Though tourists were not in short supply, they were not the focus. Most locals paid little attention to them, rather choosing to focus on their business and the short Sunday-sized window of opportunity. Rounding the corner and pungent fumes of alcohol accosted your senses of smell, from corn whiskey, a Bac Ha specialty. The potent moonshine is decanted by vendors from large white plastic jugs to used bottled water containers. If you doubt the ability of a vendor’s hooch to peel paint or light your senses on fire, you can try a shot for free.
At the fair, adventurous gastronomes can try “thang co” blood porridge, a popular dish of the H’Mong and other local people. The Flower H’mong minority is the most common here, and their colourful dresses makes is a beautiful sight.
Let’s once visit Bac Ha Market and you will be able to experience a wide range of different colorful ethnic minorities and more interesting things of life in the mountains…