Sapa’s Authentic Hill Tribe Markets
Each market, like a fire, ignites its surrounding immense green mountainous area once a week with colors and human warmth by the local hill tribes. This is truly a rendezvous for those who wish to experience more about tribe life and some ancient activities.
Table of Contents
Hill tribe markets are the most colorful weekly event of hill tribes. Flower Hmong, Dao, Tay, Nung tribes...they come to the market not only to trade but mainly to sip wine which is believed to symbolize for friendship and connection. Each market, like a fire, ignites its surrounding immense green mountainous area once a week with colors and human warmth by the local hill tribes. This is truly a rendezvous for those who wish to experience more about tribe life and some ancient activities.
Locals selling their goods
1. Bac Ha Market
Bac Ha is a rural district and a border with China, located about 76 km from Lao Cai City. It is the home of the Flower H’Mong people. It is famous for the morning Sunday market - known as Bac Ha Market, which is the largest and most colorful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. On the market days, from early morning, all paths and roads around the market are full of people and horses pouring to the market. There was a brisk trade at the market for everything from cattle, horses, goats, and dogs, as well as many traditional goods like hand-embroidered skirts, saddles plus elaborate textiles, handbags, and other jewelry and trinkets made by the local ethnic people. The market is divided into many areas by name by goods. There are also an eating area which has about 20 food stalls for visitors to enjoy local mountainous cuisine. Their intricately woven daily costume is one of the main drawing points in itself. Most of the locals ignored tourists and focused on the task at hand: buying, selling goods It is not simply a place for trading but also an opportunity for people from different ethnicities to come and meet, for relatives to reunite after a long time, for women to demonstrate their beautiful handmade traditional costumes and even for youngsters to find their dates. People usually sit in groups around a "thang co" soup pan eating and chatting. With no banking for foreigners in Bac Ha make sure you bring enough cash to get you through.
2. Muong Hum Market
Muong Hum is about 3 hours driving from Lao Cai station. Muong Hum Market is also opening every Sunday, where the most colorful costumes of all Flower H’Mong, Blue H’Mong, Black H’Mong, Red Dao, Giay, Ha Nhi, Tu Di…are gathered in the local market. This peaceful mountainous area has in itself numerous traditional cultural features that are well reflected in festivals. For ethnic people, they go to the market not only for shopping. The market is also a place for young people to meet and date or relax. Tourists will get a warm welcome and be invited to have a family meal and a cup of heart-warming wine. If visiting a restaurant in Muong Hum, visitors will have a chance to enjoy horse meat fried with onion, pig entrails served with mint leaves, and don’t forget to have them with local wine.
Muong Hum Market
3. Coc Ly Market
Coc Ly market is a small fair in which every Tuesday the tribes from the surrounding villages come to buy and sell goods and meet friends. This market is about 35km southwest of Bac Ha. Many ethnic traders from Bac Ha and other parts of Lao Cai dress up in colorful costumes and bring horses, chickens, buffaloes, vegetables, or whatever they can sell to the festive market in the wee hours, and will not return home until 1 pm. Because Coc Ly is more remote than Sapa, the dress and way of life of people are more traditional than in the large centers. A good idea is to stroll every corner of the market as you listen to unexpected conversations, see nice items and local life.
4. Cao Son Market
Cao Son Market is a small-sized market of ethnic Hmong, Phu La living in the four largest villages of Muong Khuong district held every Wednesday. It takes nearly 3 hours to drive from Sapa. There are many ways to get to the Cao Son market. If visitors want to have the opportunity to go by the riverway and view the romantic and poetic landscape, you can take part in a tour of the Chay River. Early in the morning, people from villages come to the market sequentially. They go into each group, in pairs or one by one. People use horses to pack goods or motorbike, bike…. Cao Son Market seems to be more beautiful by people, goods, and natural landscape. They all happily buy and sell and exchange goods with others. Like some other fairs, the Cao Son market is divided into several zones. Coming here, visitors will have the opportunity to communicate, chat and learn more about the daily life of the ethnic minorities living along the Chay River.
Cao Son Market
5. Lung Khau Nhin Market
Taking place every Thursday, Lung Khau Nhin Market is a small long-lasting market hiding amongst the mountains and forests in the north of Vietnam about 10 km from the border with China. Which is almost untouched by modern life, Lung Khau Nhin still keeps its originals. If you still wonder what the best time to visit Sapa is, list Lung Khau Nhin to the list of attractions in Sapa regardless of the season.
6. Can Cau Market
Belongs to the fair system of Lao Cai, Can Cau Market is only held on Saturday morning. Located 20km from the north of Bac Ha and 9km from the Chinese border, it is a colorful, vibrant market where you will encounter minority peoples and Chinese people from across the border. Like Bac Ha Market, Can Cau sells a similar range of products. So if your timings only enable you to get to one, do not worry that you are missing out — you will get a good experience whichever you visit. As you would expect, the market starts early (around 7.30 am) and closes in the early afternoon so you will want to make an early start to get the most out of the experience. Locals will implore you to drink the local corn wine with them.
If you are interested in joining these unique markets, don't be hesitate to visit the beautiful town of Sapa.
Image sources: Internet