All you need to know about Bac Ha Market
Bac Ha Market Travel Guide 2019-2020: What to do, When to visit and more….
Suggested Bac Ha Market Tours
I. Where is Bac Ha Market? Is Bac Ha Market worth a visit?
As an amazing tourist spot (and event) of Bac Ha Town, which is 95km far away from Sapa – and 55km from Lao Cai City, Bac Ha Market is where the minority ethnic groups of Black Dao, Tay, Nung, Phu La, and Flower H’ mong gather and trade on every Sunday morning. When it takes place, it attracts not only most of the villagers from the surrounding hillside coming to buy and sell a wide variety of goods, exchanging news and making friendships, but also lots of tourists paying a visit to shop brilliant souvenir, witness the vibrant ethnic culture as well as experience finest regional traditions. Bac Ha Market is indeed the perfect destination for those who expect off-the-beaten-track trekking in the Northern Part of Vietnam.
II. Things to see and do in Bac Ha Market
1. Enjoy the festive air
Bac Ha Market is more than a place to buy and sell wares. After a week of arduous farm work or housework in their villages, Bac Ha Market becomes a place where local villagers can let their hair down with a day of festivities and drinking. At that moment, the market is awash with the colors of different traditional ethnic clothing, as a festival atmosphere descends on the place and women dress up to vie for the best outfit on a show. Men, in comparison, meet friends and family that they only see once a week, traditionally getting drunk off rice wine and going home strapped onto a horse for safety. The weekly occasions of Bac Ha Market mean that families save money all week and go on a bit of a spree, buying necessary items as well as some treats for the kids. Tourists may come and leave empty-handed, but Bac Ha Market is an essential business and social outlet for the Vietnamese hill tribes who run it.
2. Learn the lifestyle of locals
Bac Ha market really is a show of smiles and vibrant colors. While trading goods may be one of the primary purposes, but what makes Bac Ha Market special is how much joy, smiles, and laughter are exchanged. At the Bac Ha fair, there is no distance between the tribes, no language barriers or regional contrasts. Everyone comes together for one purpose – to make an honest living and bring joy to the ones around them.
Though you might think it would be a tough life to live in the mountainous areas and be away from developed cities, but that not always be the case. The locals take life as what it is and enjoy every moment they experience. That is why tourists feel relaxed when joining Bac Ha Market.
3. Buy unique and authentic products
Keep an eye out for clothing and accessories sold in this market. Various items represent the various cultures and you will be able to tell them apart by the contrasting colors and patterns. Every item is handmade and intricately sewn as none-factory-made products. The range of choice is staggering and most tourists walk around for an hour at least before diving into the haggling. The section that draws the most attention is the one selling Vietnamese ethnic minority clothes, and justifiably so. The eye-catching rainbow of textiles on display is immense and any item of Vietnamese hill tribe clothing makes a great souvenir for anyone back home. There are also other sections if you look for art, pottery, handicrafts, textiles, jewelry, and handbags at some of the other stalls around.
4. Experience local foods and drinks
Bac Ha Market also brings some rare but fantastic foods from the highland people. Walking around the market, you can easily find the scene of an elderly woman with a wrinkled yet radiant smile donning the H’Mong outfit sitting next to her aromatic cans of home-baked corn, a gentle girl arranging her fried buckwheat pie, or a young man chatting with customers about his barrels full of honey wax. But for the must-try food in Bac Ha Market, you probably take Thang Co, which is made from buffalo and horse meat, a typical dish of the highlanders. Have it for lunch and you will be happy.
5. Visit top attractions around
As the market will dismiss in the afternoon, you may well have spare time to visit the surrounding attractions of Bac Ha. Let’s take a walk and enrich your experience of a day traveling Bac Ha Market by visiting the following destinations:
Hoang A Tuong (Meo King) Palace:
Located in the center of Bac Ha Town, built since 1914 and completed in 1921 by the French, Hoang A Tuong is a large palace constructed in a kind of ‘oriental baroque’ style and attached to a tumultuous history of Bac Ha. Prior to 1945, Bac Ha was a semi-colonial society in which the wealthy upper class, including the Tay chief Hoang A Tuong, exploited the working class by occupying fertile lands and monopolizing the sale of essential products such as salt and foods. This place is the combination of French and Chinese architectural style with a two-story structure. Its long and imposing corridor reflects the glorious time bygone.
Ban Pho Village:
From Bac Ha Town, traveling on winding roads clinging to the slopes of Hoang Lien Son mountain range about 4km, with the verdant valley of corn and tender rice colored beneath and immense plum forest on both sides, you will reach Ban Pho Village. Mingling into the vast blue of the endlessly stretching mountains is houses of H’mong people, which look like a bird’s nest sticking to the mountainside. Visiting an H’ mong family, you will be warmly treated with the special home-made dish Thang Co and wine, which is made from rice and corn.
Hoang Thu Pho Village:
From the center of Bac Ha District, you can take a motorbike drive on a 12km journey to get to Hoang Thu Pho, a village is known for its ancient snow tea trees in the forest and plum and peach fruits, also home to a large community of friendly and hospitable H’ mong ethnic people. Traveling Hoang Thu Pho, you can admire the beautiful landscapes on either side of the street, watching majestic mountains rising to the sky and enjoying the freshness in the air.
From afar, Hoang Thu Pho looks like a painting of immense greenery of trees, corn and rice fields as a harmonious combination of nature and life that is waiting to be discovered. Hiking around the village, you will feel nothing but totally relax exploring the land with sounds and melodies of mountains and streams running through, and birds singing in the jungle. You can even experience a home-stay in a wooden house and enjoy corn wine and char-grilled chicken for dinner.
III. The best time to join Bac Ha Market
Bac Ha weather is characteristic of Northern Vietnam with alternating spells of the wet and dry seasons. The best time to visit Bac Ha would be during the winter (December to April) as the temperature during this ranges between 19-25 degrees Celsius and both trekking and shopping can be pursued during this time with convenience and ease.
However, be noted that Bac Ha Market is a weekly market that only takes place on Sundays. As with all local markets in Vietnam, the earlier you arrive the better. The best way to see the market in all its glory is to arrive in the early morning, then, it will wind down dramatically by 10-11 am. This either means a 5 am start from Sapa or an overnight stay in Bac Ha on Saturday night. By doing so, not only will you avoid the tourists, but you also can see the market in full swing.
Besides, Bac Ha also has unique festivals celebrated on specific days during the year. Say San Festival and Ruoc Dat Ruoc Nuoc Festival are held from January 2nd – 6th, and January 15th on the lunar calendar in succession. During these two festivals, locals pray for a new year with favorable weather, bumper harvest, and prosperous life. In early June when the plums are ripening, Horse Racing Festival is celebrated. In addition, the Bac Ha Temple Festival is on July 7th of the lunar calendar. It’s best if you could visit Bac Ha Market during one of these festivals.
IV. How to get to Bac Ha Market
Vietnam Railways runs two daily express trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai, which only stops at major stations so it takes only 5 hours. After arriving at Lao Cai Train Station, you’ll need to get to Lao Cai Bus Station which is 10 kilometers away. From there, there are a lot of buses to Bac Ha from the early morning until 3 pm every day.
In addition, you can rent a motorbike to drive yourself from Hanoi to Bac Ha. Although renting a motorbike is not a big deal, but we do not encourage you to do this, especially when you first come to Vietnam. Ensure your safety first.