Can Cau Market – A Unique Local Market in Lao Cai near Sapa, Vietnam

A Shopping Place near Sapa, Vietnam

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: February 5, 2020

In Vietnam, if Hanoians are proud to have Dong Xuan Market, Saigonese are proud to have Ben Thanh Market, then the Mong and the Giay people – minority groups, are proud to have Can Cau Market, located in Lao Cai province, near Sapa.

One of the must-visit destinations of remote-area travelers is Bac Ha Market. Yet only a mere minority of them can recognize the existence of another long-standing market which only held on Saturday – the Can Cau Market of the Mong and the Giay people.

Can Cau Market is situated in Can Cau Commune, Si Ma Cai District, Lao Cai Province. Approximately 100km to the north-east of Lao Cai’s centre, Can Cau Market still be it as it may, not being commercialized or modernized, but it originated from the lifestyle of residents here in hundreds of years before now and then.. This helps maintain its own ethnic character and exclusive perspective, posing such strangely unforgettable feelings and memories to any visitors who come here for their first time.

    Location: Road 153, Can Cau Commune, Si Ma Cai District, Lao Cai Province. 
    Opening hours: 6 a.m - 13 p.m

History of Can Cau Market

No one knows exactly the time when nor how Can Cau Market was established, but some people said that this market was initially formed since the Vietnam-China Border War in 1979. 

In fact, the inhabitants here shared a different point. Though they are not certain too, it was said among the people that Can Cau Market has been active in such a long time, only born after Bac Ha Market a few years. 

In the first place, this spot was simply a blank space, then some people came up with an idea to make use of it as a product-retailing series. Everyone started to gather here more and more. Who raised buffaloes offer buffaloes, who made garments sell clothing products,.. and gradually it became a lively real market which is Can Cau Market as we currently identify it.

What to Buy in Can Cau Market

Traditionally, the fair is organized by the Mong and the Giay people yet operated the same as the Dao people’s business structure. No matter if it’s a holiday or harsh weather condition, Can Cau Market regularly open on every Saturday morning in every week.

Can Cau Market covers an area of more than 1 hectare. It is divided into two particular areas of Can Cau Market: the local product area and the cattle area. All kinds of goods are presented in their most fresh and wholesome condition.

1. Local Products

The entire precinct generally looks like five fertile terraced fields. Three of them are colorfully filled with handcrafted commodities and local specialities such as brocades, herbs, vegetables, embroideries,.. while the other two are available with household appliances in daily life like flashlights, brushes, pans,.. or popular foods (corn-liquor, green rice,..). 

2. Livestock

Furthermore, other than the above five trading areas, cattle may be the most significant, drawing attention from not only people living here but also outsiders and visitors from other sites. 

Considering the Mong and the Giay people’s live, cattle (especially buffalo) is regarded as an indispensable part to their livelihood making due to the limit in manual labour of farming. Thus, coming to the fair, they always expect to purchase best livestock specimens with the purpose of increasing their labour productivity.

There are also other more familiar cattle selling at Can Cau Market such as poultry and dogs which has created the goods’ variety, offering consumers more possible choices.

What to Eat in Can Cau Market

Among different aspects that reflect the distinct lifestyle of ethnic groups in Vietnam, food in Can Cau Market is probably one of those things that you should not miss out after traveling such a long way to get here.

The food area in Can Cau Market, where residents here enjoy gathering the most, serves traditional cuisines such as Pho, Bun, Xoi, corn-bread, etc. and Thang Co, which may be the main dish features the eating custom of the Mong and the Giay people. Thang Co is a combination soup of viscera taken from typical livestock such as horse, pork, cow,.. Whoever has tried this special dish will never forget its taste so do not hesitate to give it a try at least one time when you travel here.

How to Get to Can Cau Market

To get to Can Cau Market, you should take Lao Cai Province as the starting spot, then head straight forward to Highway 4D until reach Phong Nien Commune, Bao Thang District, continue to follow the Provincial Highway 153 to get to Bac Ha District. From here, Can Cau Market is 18km further in distance.

Otherwise, booking a tour to go to expected places is way more convenient than traveling by yourself. There will be specific series of tour that help you go to Can Cau Market with reasonable prices ranging from $ 150-200 / person. 

Tips on Visiting Can Cau Market

  • The fair will only open until late afternoon, so remember to check your itinerary or tour schedule before depart so as to not be late for participating in it.
  • Bring along proper clothing depending on each season since Can Cau Market locates in highland area and its temperature is typically higher or lower than normal.
  • In case you do not travel by tour, get a guide when you arrive in Lao Cai Province so that you will not be confused by sinuous mountain paths or ethnic language that residents here habitually utilize.

Out of myriad fair rising day by day, Can Cau Market still can’t be mistaken with any other kinds of market. Once you get here and experience a different lifestyle, a different living-context, you will not easily forget how special people living in mountainous areas are.

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