Located 380 km from North West of Hanoi and 100 Km Farway from Sapa Town, Bac Ha is a famous tourist attraction for sunday market and homeland of Flower Hmong. At the altitude of 1200m above the sea level, Bac Ha is famous for Can Cau saturday market and Bac Ha Sunday market, there are plenty of attractions to discover in this small town such as Ban Pho village, palace of Hmong King Hoang A Tuong, Bac Ha is also famous for corn wine, Tam Hoa plum, Bac Ha chilli sauce and Thang Co dish.
For most foreign tourist, the main aim of coming to Bac Ha is the hill tribe markets, of which Bac Ha Sunday market is the best. Every Sunday, people of Hmong, Red Dzao, Zay travel tens of km over the mountain to reach the market, one can find everything here from customer goods to food, wine, rice, clothes, souvenirs and especially there is a section for trading buffaloes, horses, dogs, cats...people come here not only for trading, the market is considered as a social activity for mountainous people. Coming to Bac Ha market, one cannot miss a bowl of Thang Co, a local speciality cooked with horse, buffoloes, it is said that the pan that cooks Thang Co is never washed to keep the flavour. In winter days, people crowd around the Thang Co stall, drink Bac Ha wine made from rice or corn, Bac Ha wine is very very strong, after markets, young men can be seen sleeping right on the road, with their wives and horses waiting beside.
Ban Pho village is 2km from centre of Bac Ha, the village is inhabited by Flower Hmong people, this is where the famous Tam Hoa plum is grown, in Spring time, throngs of trucks coming to Bac Ha to buy plum and bring to Hanoi and other provinces, in the village, there is Hoang A Tuong palace, considered by Hmong people as their King in the French colonial time. over many decades, the palace still retains its original architecture of the old time.
Many tourists stay the night in Bac Ha to visit the morning markets and travel to Sapa the following days. There are a few hotels in Bac Ha.
|Bac Ha Market
The Sunday market in Bac Ha is where you'll want to stock up on water buffalo, pigs and horses. Once
you're all set, you can browse for bottles of local firewater (made from rice, cassava or corn) or handicrafts made by some of the 10 Montagnard groups living near here - Flower Hmong, Dzao, Giay (Nhang), Han (Hoa), Xa Fang, Lachi, Nung, Phula, Thai and Thulao.Bac Ha is a less crowded alternative to Sapa, and arriving midweek makes for a relaxing visit. Around 700m above sea level, the highlands around Bac Ma are somewhat warmer than Sapa. Bring ear plugs so you needn't endure the 'Voice of Vietnam' echoing from the loudspeakers at market-rousing time.
|Can Cau Market
Sprawling near the banks of a river, Can Cau
Market is a clearly defined shantytown, packed with crude stalls covered with thatched roofs. The start of a few simple settlements can be seen high above, many of whose residents now make their weekly pilgrimage to the market. We are only 9kms from the Chinese border and some traders make the journey across from China on horseback. Unfortunately foreigners are not allowed to reciprocate this set-up, however tempting it may seem.
By 9 am, the market is crammed to capacity. It's lively and surprisingly fun. The locals are mostly of the Flower Hmong
minority group. You can't miss them -their traditional costume of green checked headdress and multi-colored, meticiculosly stitched and layered garments are simply stunning. Few foreigners make it to Can Cau;
those that do brave the journey come either with a small tour group in four-wheel drives, or - if half-mad and on a tight budget like me -on the back of a motorbike. The handful of Westerners here this morning are the object of intense - though friendly- scrutiny. There is much laughter as we try to make basic conversation. Although the majority are painfully shy and not accustomed to seeing foreigners, some cheerfully allow photographs to be taken.
is predominately a livestock market and not the sort of place to buy some choice gifts for the folks back home. Beyond the fenced-in perimeter, pot-bellied pigs, chickens and water buffalo wait patiently by the river to be sold. They rub shoulders with magnificent wild horses, some of whom will be transporting their masters back over to China. But the market also sells the basics: traditional clothing, sacks of rice, bundles of coarse, raw wool and ironware. Some stalls sell fresh tobacco and a rather sad array of root vegetables. Many women sell their wares from large, wicker baskets and sit weaving whilst waiting for a sale. I note that there are many giant plastic containers lying around with attached tubes. I mistakenly think this is gasoline, but it is in fact the omni-present rice wine and some folk are spotted wisely filling up their water bottles for the long ride home. Food stalls serve bowls of steaming fat noodles in broth and indescribable plates of what I can only assume are some sort of animal innards. It is almost like being transported back in time. There are few traces of the outside world, save the occasional soccer tee-shirt cast off and digital watch. As I observe the incredible costumes, deep shyness and the dark, weather-beaten skins, it is hard to imagine that this is the same country as freewheeling Saigon City in the south. It might as well have been on another planet.