We 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.
Women 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.
It was a cloudy day but the Flower Hmong women, like these bag vendors, brightened up the day.
Vegetable vendors waiting for customers.
This woman came geared up for a big purchase.
Women from Tay tribe selling mounts of red hot chillies.
Tay women selling savory looking local delicacies.
Keith haggling with an incense vendor.
Locals, young and old alike, come to the market not only to buy and sell but also to socialize with friends.
Flower Hmong women catching up with one other.
Weathered but lovely Flower Hmong women watching the going-ons in the market.
My favorite part of the market is the clothing section for the Flower Hmong women. It is such a feast for the eyes.
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.
Well-embelished handwoven tops for sale.
A mother helping her daughter try on a fancy top.
I tried one of the fancy tops myself:) An intricate top like this one costs about 350,000 dong or about US$17.
Colorful skirts for sale.
A woman trying on a skirt. It costs about US$7.
Women examining the intricate details of a fabric.
A feisty clothing vendor. Nobody could haggle with her!
While Flower Hmong women’s clothes are ultra colorful and elaborate, the men’s are just plain, dark and boring.
Keith’s favorite part of the market is the livestock section.
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.
Men in the auction area for water buffaloes, which go for an average of about US$200.
The area where other animals like dogs, cats, pigs, birds, goats, ducks, chicken, etc., are being sold or bartered.
A pig with its new owner.
The “fresh” meat section is definitely not for the faint of hearts. For sale in this stall are animal fats and innards.
Many women come with their babies bundled in very fancy back carrier.
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.
A Flower Hmong girl sharing a meal with her friend from the Nung tribe.
The market is also a place where boys meet girls.
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.
Dolls of different ethic tribes for sale as souvenirs.
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.
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