Flower Hmong Vendors, Bac Ha Market, VietnamWe thought we have seen the most colorful of all markets in Pisac, Peru and Otovalo, Ecuador, but the market in Bac Ha topped them all. Bac Ha is a quiet and quaint hilltribe village in the highlands of northern Vietnam.  Every Sunday, it transforms into a bustling town when the different tribal groups from surrounding villages converge in its market to buy, sell or trade produce, livestocks and other basic needs. Dominating the market scene are the women from Flower Hmong tribe, whose colorful traditional clothes bring so much vibrancy to the weekly market.

01_Flower Hmong Women, Bac Ha Market, VietnamWomen from Flower Hmong tribe arriving in Bac Ha.  Most people walk many miles to come to the Sunday market, which is the largest one in the region.

02-Flower Hmong, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam    It was a  cloudy day but the Flower Hmong women, like these bag vendors, brightened up the day.

Flower Hmong Vegetable Vendors, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam Vegetable vendors waiting for customers.

32_Flower Hmong Woman, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam

This woman came geared up for a big purchase.

3-Tay Women, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam Women from Tay tribe selling mounts of red hot  chillies.

37_Tay Women Vendors, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam Tay women selling savory looking local delicacies.

Incense Vendor, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam.Keith haggling with an incense vendor.

15_Flower Hmong Young Ladies, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam Locals, young  and old alike,  come to the market not only to buy and sell but also to socialize with friends.

Flower Hmong Women, Bac Ha Market,Vietnam Flower Hmong women catching up with one other.

Flower Hmong Women, Bac Ha Market, VietnamWeathered but lovely Flower Hmong women watching the going-ons in the market.

04_Flower Hmong Clothes, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam My favorite part of the market is the clothing section for the Flower Hmong women. It is such a feast for the eyes.

33-Flower Hmong Clothes, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam.jpg

Details of the eye-catching clothes of the Flower Hmong women. As the Sunday market is a big social event for them, the clothes they wear during market day are a little bit more spruced up than what they wear everyday.

06-Flower Hmong Clothes, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam Well-embelished handwoven tops for sale.

10-Flower Hmong Clothes, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam A mother helping her daughter try on a fancy top.

Flower Hmong Clothes, Bac Ha Market, VietnamI tried one of the fancy tops myself:)  An intricate top like this one costs about 350,000 dong or about US$17.

Flower Hmong Clothes, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam  Colorful skirts for sale.

Flower Hmong Clothes, Bac Ha Market, VietnamA woman trying on a skirt.  It costs about US$7.

Flower Hmong Clothes, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam  Women examining the intricate details of a fabric.

Flower Hong Vendor, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam  A feisty clothing  vendor. Nobody could haggle with her!

Flower Hmong Hmong Men, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam  While Flower Hmong women’s  clothes are ultra colorful and elaborate,  the men’s are just plain, dark  and boring.

23-Animal Trading, Bac Cha, Market, Vietnam  Keith’s favorite part of the market is the livestock section.

24-Animal Trading, Bac Cha, Market, Vietnam  Water buffaloes are one of the precious commodities in the market.  The locals make their livelihoods mainly from farming and water buffaloes are important farming aides to them.

Animal Auction. Bac Ha Market, Vietnam  Men in the auction area for water buffaloes, which go for an average of about US$200.

Animal Trading, Bac Cha, Market, Vietnam  The area where other animals like dogs, cats, pigs, birds, goats, ducks,  chicken, etc.,  are being sold or bartered.

Animal Trading, Bac Cha, Market, Vietnam A pig with its new owner.

Meat section, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam

The “fresh” meat section is definitely not for the faint of hearts. For sale in this stall are animal fats and innards.

Flower Hmong Mother and Child, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam

Many women come with their babies bundled in very fancy back carrier.

Flower Hmong Mother and Child, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam

Flower Hmong Baby Carrier, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam

Food Court, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam The busiest and the most social part of the market is the food court.  Everyone in the market ends up here to eat and socialize.

Food Court, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam A Flower Hmong girl sharing a meal with her friend from the Nung tribe.

Food Court, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam The market is also a place where boys meet girls.

Bamboo bowls for sale, Bac ha Market, Vietnam While the market is very much a local affair, there are some lovely local crafts to be had for tourists like these bamboo bowls.  We purchased a lot of beautiful bamboo crafts (placemats, chopsticks, coasters, etc) as Christmas presents for most of our friends and family back home.

Bac Ha Market, Vietnam Dolls of different ethic tribes for sale as souvenirs.

18_Flower Hmong women on cellphone, Bac Ha Market, Vietnam Women reading text message from a cellphone!  As remote as their village is and as basic as their way of life is, the tribal people in this region apparently embraced the use of modern technology.

After our enjoyable foray in the Sunday market, we started our two-day trek to the off-the-beaten-track hilltribe villages surrounding Ba Cha where we got to witness and experience more of the ways of life and tradition of the Flower Hmong, Tay, and Nung  people.

You may also want to see our other related posts about  markets:


Getting there:  We took an overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. We arranged for a private transfer from Lao Cai to Bac Ha. With the improved roads, the drive took less than an hour. Our private transfer was arranged through the trekking company we engaged – BacHaTourist.com. There is also a bus service between Lao Cai and Bac Ha.

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday. Check it out to see more interesting travel photos.

Feel free to leave your comments below.

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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

45 responses to “Vietnam: The Colorful Hilltribe Market of Bac Ha

  1. Marisol, these photos are absolutely stunning, I love traditional fabrics and would have had to stop myself from buying everything, even though I would probably never wear it! And I would have bought those baby carriers for all the new Mums I know, they are simply gorgeous. I’m going to bookmark this post for when I eventually get to Vietnam, because I’m going here!
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Experiencing Synchronicity In Udaipur, IndiaMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Thanks Sarah! If you love traditional fabrics, you’ll go crazy in this market. We had an awesome time in Bac Ha and we’re sure you and Tyrhone will have a blast there, too.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Audrey, it’s another world indeed. Yes, it also reminded us of traditional clothes of the women in the Andes only the color tones are different. We’re really amazed how much these people preserve their traditions.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Nancie, thanks! We love markets, too. They give you so much tastes of the local flavors. I hope you get to return to Vietnam soon. There’s always something to go back to.

  2. Kira S.

    Wow! I thought your photos of the markets in Peru and Ecuador were so colorful but his one is so much more amazingly colorful and truly exotic. I love how you captured the market scenes and the interaction among people. I look forward to your trekking post.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hello Kira, We love all those colorful markets. We rank Bac Ha as #1 most colorful and exotic marketplace, #2 is Pisac market in Peru and #3 is Otovalo in Ecuador. We’re glad you enjoyed the photos.

  3. Bama

    “While Flower Hmong women’s clothes are ultra colorful and elaborate, the men’s are just plain, dark and boring.” This reminds me of the documentaries on birds where the case is the males are the ones who have beautiful feathers. While the picture of a Hmong woman reading a text message on a cellphone reminds me of my encounter with a Yao woman in the hill region of South China where the village is definitely a remote one and she dressed up in local traditional costume. Yet, she has a cellphone. It’s amazing how modern technology has penetrated deep into the most remote areas around the globe.
    Bama recently posted..Istanbul, A PrologueMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Bama, I remember seeing a similar documentary about birds. Isn’t it interesting? I agree how amazing it is that cellphones have reached the most remote of places. I guess with the modern technology no place is too remote anymore.

  4. Kathryn

    What an amazing place to photograph and you’ve got some cracking shots her. Superb!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Thanks Kathryn! Bac Ha truly is a photographer’s delight.

  5. What some amazing colours and the photos are so vibrant. I love the picture of the woman coming to the market with a humungus basket on her back. She looks so full of intent. When I started reading I also thought that this was about somewhere else, South America perhaps, and was reminded of course that it was Vietnam by your title. Definitely makes me want to go see for myself :)
    Johanna at ZigaZag recently posted..9 Tantalising things to do in Donnybrook, South West AustraliaMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Joanna,
      If you think they’re so vibrant in photos, wait until you see them for yourself! We don’t think our photos did justice to the colorsfulness of the marketplace. I hope you get to see it soon and we’re very sure you’ll have great time.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Aleah, those are gorgeous clothes, arent they? I wanted to buy but then I realized that a whole wardrobe is composed of so many pieces and I thought it was not practical for me at all. We were there last November and yes it was cool. It was in the highlands and the climate is similar to the mountain provinces in the Philippines or even colder.

  6. These women and their outfits can brighten any day. I love the intricate details on their costumes. Beautiful photos and what a wonderful experience. I love shopping and observing cultural markets like these. Gotta smile at those women checking their messages from a cellphone. Great to know that they’ve embraced it.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Five Fun and Free Things to do in Reykjavik Iceland with KidsMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hello Mary, if you love cultural markets then you would definitely love the market of Bac Ha. I saw some Europeans traveling there with their kids and they seemed in great awe. I’m sure it would make a great travel experience for you and your family as well.

  7. Dennis

    I’m noticing a predominant pattern on those fabrics worn by women – quite colorful! I wonder if there’s any meaning to them or the way they wore them?
    It’s a great set of photos!
    Dennis recently posted..Serengeti: Day 3My Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      HI Dennis, I don’t think there is a particular meaning to the pattern and color of the Flower Hmong clothes. But they are meant to distinguish them from other Hmong sub-groups such as the Black Hmong (wearing mostly black) and the White Hmong (wearing mostly white). Only Flower Hmongs inhabit this particular area of the highlands and the other Hmong groups live in another part of the highland.

  8. We visited Bac Ha and Sapa in April in 2011. The Bac Ha markets was hands down my favourite experience in the region. The flower hmong ladies outfits are so colourful and I found the market to be a mixture of genuine locals market with some tourist stalls. I am so glad we saw this before it changes too much. You have a wonderful range of photos that capture the essence of the market.
    budget jan recently posted..Wwoofing Interview – A Ticket to Budget TravelMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Jan, glad you enjoyed the photos. You know I visited the market for the first time in 2004. I always wanted to go back but hesitant at the same time that it may not be as authentic as it was. I returned in November 2012 with Keith and I was happy to see that, despite the advent of cellphones in the area, everything else was pretty much still very traditional. Like you, it’s still my favorite experience in the region. – Marisol

  9. Jade

    The colors are beautiful- I love the photo of the girls with their dogs, although i wish I was there so I could buy them! the close up shot of the water buffalo was pretty special too.
    Jade recently posted..Emotional Tour at Pearl Harbor MemorialMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Jade, the colors are amazing indeed! Aren’t those puppies adorable? There were many more adorable ones. We bet you would have a hard time picking one.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Muza=chan, thanks! What’s not to love in such market, right?

    • Traveling Solemates

      Thanks Jackie! Glad you were able to travel vicariously with us.

  10. Even though the people of the hill tribes are embracing modern technology, it’s great to see that they retain their identity through their traditional dress. Your stunning photos inspire me to see them for myself. I’m looking forward to reading about the trek!
    jenny@atasteoftravel recently posted..The Children of Jordan’s Al-Amir Village.My Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hello Jenny, It’s really amazing how much they preserve their cultural identities despite the imminent arrival of modern technologies. I hope you get to experience it for yourself soon!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Sophie, glad you enjoyed them. Thanks for dropping by.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Amy, we heard that there’s a large concentration of Hmong population in Minneapolis. We bet that if they go back to their hometowns they would still wear their traditional clothes. They preserve their clothing tradition truly well.

  11. I think that I could spend all day in the clothing section of that market – the colours are absolutely gorgeous!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Lisa, we bet you can! That section of the market is truly stunning.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Thanks Dick!

  12. Juan

    Thanks for the detailed and informative post, I look forward to following in your footsteps!

  13. Keets

    Your pictures and descriptions are beautiful! Thank you. I know it’s 3 years later but I’m so excited to visit the market based on your article . I’m traveling alone and would love to find beautiful embroidered purses and bags – is it enough to just visit this market in the far north or would you suggest going further?

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