Bac Ha Sunday Market

Bac Ha Sunday Market

Just an hour and a half from Lao Cai, where the train station is located you can get a mini-bus through the mountains to Bac Ha.  The trip is on windy roads, but affords beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.  The day to see the Bắc Hà market is on Sundays.  The market is dominated by the Flower H’mong ethnic minority people (different than Black H’mong people in Sapa based on their dresses), however several hill tribes gather here to buy, sell and barter. The market is held every Sunday from early morning until 2pm. The locals bring their own products (corn wine, pigs, horses, even dogs) to this market for sale and they also buy necessary things for their families. It’s not only a market, but a chance for them to meet, talk and catch up.

One of the highlights of the market for me was watching all the women in their vibrant dresses carrying their babies and bartering for all the goods.  The scarves, dresses and textile purses they carry are in bright, almost neon colors and their dresses are embroidered with a variety of different colored thread.  Being that it is winter in Bac Ha right now many of the women wear fabric wrapped around their lower legs for warmth.  The strings that they use to tie the fabric on is ornate and brightly colored as well.

Women in their traditional dresses of bright colors at the Bac Ha Market

They have many of their dresses, skirts and detailed textiles for sale at the market.  You have to bargain, but there is a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors to choose from.  It is amazing just to browse through the many stalls that sell these items.  Many of the sellers are working at their stalls and you can witness their needlework first hand.  We were at the last market before Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year and many people receive new dresses or skirts as a gift during Tet making these stalls especially popular among shoppers.

A traditional flower Hmong skirt sold at the Bac Ha Market.

The brilliantly colored textiles for sale at the Bac Ha Market

As much as I loved the textiles, fabrics and clothing the most interesting part of the market for me was all the animal sales and purchasing of pigs for family Tet celebrations.  Like all markets we have visited you can find everything under the sun to buy,  but this was the first market where they had an entire area dedicated to the sale of live animals.  Everything from horses, chickens and pigs to dogs were for sale, just approach the owner and start bargaining.  The dogs for sale were pretty cute, but we were informed that they were being sold for food.  You could also buy dog already cooked for you if you preferred.

A dog trying to blend in with the chickens at the live animal selling area.

The busiest part of the market was the area where butchered pigs were being sold as everyone was getting their pig in preparation for the Tet family feast.  Many different vendors had large pigs on offer and you could pick your cut.  It was clearly important to have the head too as many people were purchasing them.  It was quite a site as people inspected, bargained for and then transported their pigs.  Many times I found myself in the way of a motorbike driver with an entire pig strapped to the back of their bike.  It was fun to be in the middle of the action and no one seemed to mind that I was in the front row snapping photos as long as I wasn’t bidding on the best cuts.

The prize part of the pig is the head and a large one like this is worth a lot.

The Bac Ha Market is a must-see if you are headed to Sapa for trekking.  The colorful shoppers and the diversity of items available made this my favorite market in Vietnam.

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» Donna :
Feb 12, 2011

Ouch! I was wondering when we’d hear about dogs being used for food. It’s difficult to imagine that … somehow I can’t envision having Keegan for supper! :-( But it is a different culture and while we might not agree, that doesn’t make it wrong for them to do it. I love the bright colors on your photos … especially the row of textiles! Absolutely beautiful! What eye candy those markets must be for you! We’re having a heat wave here today … already 31 outside. Going to see the trumpeter swans in Monticello this afternoon, then on to Lake Maria for their candlelight walk tonight. Still enjoying all you posts! Love the tech articles … keep ’em coming. I’m keeping on file for future reference! Donna

LOCAVORista Reply:

Donna, the dogs at the markets is not every stall, but you’re right it’s a different culture and to each their own. It seems that many have them as pets as well, if that is reassuring at all. Sounds like you have some fun activities coming up, enjoy the last few weeks of winter.

» dad :
Feb 14, 2011

not sure how you can keep all of these experiences straight, they boggle my mind and my ability to grasp all of what you are sensing…..big news here is we bought smart phones…..unfortunately the owners are not very smart….nick just called and i did not know which button to push to connect, so had to call him back, i have learned that much…..very pathetic, but were reading the book……i have figured out how to get your web page up on phone though…party friday was great fun and we will share more on skype next time….going to the beach today, one forgets how warm 40 degrees can be…be safe love you dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, lots of diligent journaling and note taking keeps everything straight- a moleskin journal is always in my pocket for quick thoughts. Good luck with the smart phones and enjoy the beach (ha, ha). We’re actually heading to colder weather on Wednesday as we start to head North to Chiang Mai via Kanchanaburi.

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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