Bac Ha Sunday Market is often held every Sunday from morning till 2:00 pm, near the mountainous highlands and the Chinese border. The market has come to existence since the foundation of Lao Cai Province. From then on, the market only opens once a week on Sunday.
Bac Ha Market is considered as the largest and most colorful market in the area. On weekends, throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes walk to the market to purchase and exchange food, animals, clothes and household goods.
I. Structure of Bac Ha Market
Bac Ha Market is divided into smaller zones, each of them is characterized by its trading products. Here, visitors are likely to get lost in a number of areas namely brocade market, food market, horse market, poultry market, bird market,…
Moreover, Bac Ha Market is the one and only fair market which offers a specialized zone for horse trading. It is estimated that hundreds of horses are sold on each occasion. The discerning traders can buy the most vigorous horses at bargain prices.
II. Highlights of Bac Ha Sunday Market
The Bac Ha Market sees the attendance of variety different ethnic groups including Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities, who gather together to buy and sell their own products (ranging from everything made from hand-embroidered skirts to all manner of 4-legged animals) that cannot be found elsewhere. That’s why the market is frequently very crowded and bustling.
Not only being the place for buying and selling, Bac Ha Market is also a meeting point for cultural and sentiment exchanging. When you have a chance to catch the upland fair, you can see lines of people and horses pouring to the market through all paths and mountain roads. Sitting in groups, eating a hot soup pan (Thang Co) and talking to each other, all are what the locals normally do when they come to Bac Ha.
III. Best Time to Visit Bac Ha Market
It would be wonderful if you pay a visit to this market in spring. At that time, you can contemplate the exotic blooms of plum flowers which dye hills and mountains snowy white. Spring is also the season of festivals, so you can enjoy the festive atmosphere with locals.
IV. What to See and Do at Bac Ha Market?
1. Purchase Brocade Clothes and Handicrafts
At Bac Ha Market, one can easily find every item they need for the daily life of the ethnic minority people, from hoes and shovels to brocade, buffaloes, horses,… But the largest and most conspicuous zone is apparently for brocade products such as cloths or clothes.
Visitors will be dazzled by colorful dresses and traditional clothing of H’mong and Red Dao women displayed in street shops. There are also myriads of intricately-made items like tote bags, shoulder bags, scarves and wallets. You can easily buy a gorgeous piece of embroidery for yourself or take it as a present for your friends and family. If you are not sure which ethnic group the clothes belong to, feel free to ask the sellers.
2. Buy Cattle and Poultry
Located on a high hill, the zone used for cattle and poultry trading seems to separate from the primary market. Here purchasers are offered a multiple of animal choices, from pigs, cows, buffaloes to birds, dogs or horses. Especially, the buffalo market is mainly for male traders and buyers. It is located in a very spacious and sufficient land and serves hundreds of people. Nearby are the dog market of the H’Mong and Dao ethnic people and a market for poultry.
3. Try Northwestern Cuisine
It would be regretful if you visit Bac Ha Market without tasting its street food and local delicacies. In particular, one visiting Bac Ha Market cannot miss its specialty of the Mong’s traditional dish, called Thang Co, which is processed from horse meat; however presently from buffalo meat and pork. There are over 20 stalls selling this kind of dish in the Bac Ha Market.
While savoring Thang Co, it is highly recommended to sip a few cups of Corn Wine – a specialty of H’Mong and Dao people in highland Sapa. This kind of wine is also known as Ban Pho Corn Wine or Bac Ha Corn Wine. Although its taste is a bit strong at first, the smell is very aromatic indeed, the later taste is neither harsh nor sour.
4. Join the Festive Air
Each year, Bac Ha sees a lot of delightful festivals. On these occasions, locals often make wishes for prosperity, favorable weather and bumper harvests. Coming to Bac Ha that time, travellers can witness ethnic minorities dress up in their best traditional outfits and join masses of people drinking and dancing.
Some outstanding festivals at Bac Ha:
- Say San Festival: 2nd – 6th of January according to the lunar calendar.
- Ruoc Dat Ruoc Nuoc Festival: 15th of January.
- Horse Racing Festival: takes place in early June.
- Bac Ha Temple Festival: 7th of July.
V. Where to Stay at Bac Ha?
As hotels and guesthouses are not really ubiquitous in Bac Ha, you can book rooms at some homestays near Bac Ha Market:
1. Nobita Homestay
- Address: Bac Ha Town, Bac Ha District, Lao Cai
- Tel: 0888 613 666
2. Bac Ha Eco Homestay
- Address: Nam Cay Village, Bac Ha District, Lao Cai
- Tel: 0941 050 178
3. Cho Family Homestay
- Address: Phec Bung Village, Ban Pho Ward, Bac Ha District, Lao Cai
- Tel: 0949 423 221
VI. How to Get to Bac Ha Sunday Market?
You can choose one of the following options if departing from Hanoi:
- By train: Vietnam Railways offers two express trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai every day. It may take you 5 hours to reach Lao Cai Train Station. Then you can catch a bus at Lao Cai Bus Station to get to Bac Ha Market and join the dynamic atmosphere here.
- By sleeper bus: On a daily basis, there are two sleeper buses which depart for Bac Ha from My Dinh Bus Station. This way will take you around 6 hours.
- By motorbike or car: You can also contact any car-hire or motorbike-hire service to get a vehicle for your Hanoi – Bac Ha journey. In particular, if you would like to rent a car, Hoang Gia Trans could be a reliable selection.
Hoang Gia Trans
Address: No. 06 A9, Giang Bien resettlement area, Long Bien ward, Hanoi
Tel: 0963 242 987
A weekend trip to Sapa and Bac Ha Market is highly recommended, depending on your time budget in Vietnam. Spending 3 days 4 nights on your trip, you will be impressed by the beauty of natural and local ethnic people along with their unique culture in the Northern mountainous area.