Posted by: adventuressetravels | November 30, 2012

Bac Ha Sunday Market

Vietnam never ceases to surprise and delight.  The relatively small country has everything from cool mountain towns to sun-soaked beaches.  Vietnamese culture and food varies as greatly as the landscape.   This diversity of people astounds; there are 54 ethnic minorities sprinkled throughout Vietnam

The most prolific of these ethnic minorities is the Hmong hill tribe.  There are Rainbow, Black, and Flower Hmong groups in the mountainous Northwest Vietnam region.  Each tribe has their own style of dress, customs, and dialects.  However the intermarriage is accepted and the tribes coexist peacefully.

One of the best places to see the beautiful Flower Hmong is at the Bac Ha Sunday Market.  The market’s colorful whirlwind of multi-colored red, blue, yellow flower Hmong dresses is a feast for the eyes.   The women dominate the market, buying and selling handicrafts, clothes, food, and so much more.  A sea of food vendors with low benches and chairs sell ice cream, rainbow sticky rice, horse stew, and a cornucopia of Hmong delicacies take up the center of the market.

Dotted along the paths are Hmong liquor stores, in other words women with dirty plastic 5-gallon containers of blisteringly-strong rice wine.  Vietnamese drink the clear alcohol strong enough to make rubbing alcohol seem mild morning noon and night.  It never ceases to amaze me at how much all-but pure alcohol the Vietnamese and Hmong drank.

Though the food, weavings, clothes, and crafts are beautiful, the animal sections of the market are just as interesting.  On a hill adjacent to the market vendors bring water buffalo to buy and sell.  Water buffalo are one of the Hmong’s most important possessions.  The animals can help plow rice, pull carts, and carry.  Not surprisingly these animals are extremely expensive.  The black buffalos are worth more than the white animals common in this region and a black buffalo can cost up to 30,000,000 Dong, about $1,500 USD.

Unlike the Black Hmong, the Rainbow Hmong also grow corn and use horses.  The scrubby little ponies  look like they might be more at home roaming the prairies of Mongolia than in the mountains of Vietnam, but the horse market is a different world from the Western horse world.  The ponies wore woven rope bridles and wooden-framed saddles with a platform for a rider to sit.  Just looking at the tack I felt bad for the ponies.  Still, I was sorry to have missed the yearly horse race that takes place in Bac Ha one Sunday of the year.

An explosion of color, sound, and culture, Bac Ha Market is a lovely place to spend a Sunday morning.  If you are in Northwest Vietnam in Sapa near Bac Ha on a Sunday, then I recommend stopping by the market.



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