Set in the picturesque northwestern highlands of Vietnam, Bac Ha is a small town famous for its colorful Sunday market. The town itself is rather sleepy and undeveloped in terms of tourism, but a visit to the Sunday market with its exotic products and crowds of hill tribe people who come here to shop and trade is an unforgettable experience.
The market starts early in the morning, so it is a good idea to spend the night in Bac Ha. This also gives you the opportunity to watch as shoppers and traders alike from the surrounding hill tribe villages arrive on foot and by horse. The area is home to ten different ethnic groups, of which the Flower H'mong are the easiest to spot. The Flower H'mong women wear checkered head scarves and brightly colored tops and skirts decorated with elaborate embroidery. Other hill tribes include the Han, Dzao, Thulao, Xa Fang, Giay, Thai, Phula, Lachi, and Nung.
Places to See & Activities
The market is usually extremely busy and swarming with people buying, selling, and socializing. Most people come from afar, and the market is as much a bazaar as it gives people the opportunity to meet and socialize. This is often done over a steaming bowl of soup or noodles at one of the many food stalls. The selling and buying of livestock is exclusively done by the men, whereas the women fiercely haggle over produce and textiles. Families always bring their children to the market, and it is common to see women carrying babies on their backs in colorful blankets.
Food & Shopping
For the adventurous, there are plenty of local products to try, such as seriously potent corn and rice wine, raw tobacco (unprocessed) that is smoked from huge pipes, and exotic dishes offered at the food stalls. Aficionados of ethnic textiles and handicrafts will find lots of treasures here. The silver jewelry is particularly beautiful and intricate. Look for the large earrings and necklaces the Flower H'mong wear.
For recommended hotels in Bac Ha, click here: Bac Ha Hotels.
Notes From the Field
“If you can make it to Bac Ha on a Saturday night and stay for the Sunday morning market, you'll be seriously rewarded! We took the incredible drive from Sapa very early on a Satruday morning, passing Bac Ha and stopping at the market in Can Cau (also VERY highly recommended) before going back to Bac Ha.
The town isn't all that interesting, other than the beautiful surroundings, so there's probably no reason to go other than the Sunday market or as a base to explore the surrounding area. But, the Sunday market is a real scene! It begins before dawn with Flower H'mong coming down the streets by foot and horse, brining their wares, in their insanely colorful outfits. This alone is worth the trip to the north of Vietnam! The market feels like a scene from an adventure movie. It's impossible to put into words how fascinating this market is. If you're even considering going, do!”
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