Sapa’s Authentic Hill Tribe Markets

Each market, like a fire, ignite its surrounding immense green mountainous area once a week with colors and human warmth by the local hill tribes. This is truly a rendezvous for those who wish to experience more about tribe life and some ancient activities.

Hill tribe markets are the most colorful weekly event of hill tribes. Flower Hmong, Dao, Tay, Nung tribes...they come to the market not only to buy or sell but mainly to sip wine which is believed to symbolize for friendship and connection. Each market, like a fire, ignite its surrounding immense green mountainous area once a week with colors and human warmth by the local hill tribes. This is truly a rendezvous for those who wish to experience more about tribe life and some ancient activities.

Locals selling their goods

Bac Ha market

Bac Ha is a rural district and the border with China, located about 76 km from Lao Cai City. It is the home of the Flower H’Mong people. It is famous for morning Sunday market, which is the largest and most colorful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. On the market days, right from the early morning, all paths and mountain roads are full of people and horses pouring to the market. There was a brisk trade at the market for everything from cattle, horses, goats and dogs, as well as many traditional goods like hand-embroidered skirts, saddles plus elaborate textiles, handbags and other jewelry and trinkets made by the local tribes people. The market is divided into many areas by name by goods. There are also eating area which has about 20 food stalls for visitors to enjoy local mountainous cuisine. Their intricately woven daily costume is one of the main drawing points in itself. Most of the locals ignored tourists and focused on the task at hand: buying, selling, and trading goods It is not simply a place for trading but also an opportunity for people from different ethnicities to come and meet, for relatives to reunite after a long time missing, for women to demonstrate their beautiful handmade traditional costumes and even for youngsters to find their dates.  People usually sit in groups around a "thang co" soup pan eating and chatting. With no banking for foreigners in Bac Ha make sure you bring enough cash to get you through.

Muong Hum Market

Muong Hum is about three hours drive from Lao Cai station. Muong Hum Market is also opening on every Sunday, where the most colorful costumes of all Flower H’Mong, Blue H’Mong, Black H’Mong, Red Dao, Giay, Ha Nhi, Tu Di…are gathered in the local market. This peaceful mountainous area has in itself numerous traditional cultural features that are well reflected in festivals. For people in ethnic groups, they go to the market not only for shopping. The market is also a place for young people to meet and date or relax. Tourists will be warmed welcomed and invited to have a familiar meal and a cup of heart-warming wine. If visiting a restaurant in Muong Hum, visitors will have a chance to enjoy horse meat fried with onion, pig entrails served with mint leaves and don’t forget to have them with local wine.

Coc Ly Market

Coc Ly is a small market where every Tuesday the tribes from the surrounding villages come to buy and sell goods and meet friends. This market is about 35km southwest of Bac Ha. Many ethnic traders from Bac Ha and other parts of Lao Cai dress up in colorful costumes and bring horses, chickens, buffaloes, vegetables or whatever they can sell to the festive market in the wee hours, and will not return home until 1pm. Because Coc Ly is more remote than Sapa, the dress and way of life of people is more traditional than in the large centers. A good idea is to stroll every corner of the market as you listen to unexpected conversations, see nice items and local life.

Cao Son Market

Cao Son Market is a small sized market of ethnic Hmong, Phu La living in the four largest villages of Muong Khuong district held every Wednesday. It takes nearly 3 hours to drive from Sapa. There are many ways to get to Cao Son market. If visitors want to have the opportunity to go by the river way and view the romantic and poetic landscape, you can take part in tours on the Chay River. Early in the morning, people from villages come to the market sequentially. They go into each group, in pairs or one by one. People use horses to pack the goods or motorbike, bike…. Cao Son Market seems to be more beautiful by people, goods and natural landscape. They all happily buy and sell and exchange goods with others. Like some other fairs, Cao Son market is divided into several zones. Coming here, visitors will have the opportunity to communicate, chat and learn more about the daily life of the ethnic minorities living along the Chay River.

Lung Khau Nhin Market

Taking place every Thursday, Lung Khau Nhin Market is a small long lasting market hiding itself amongst the mountains and forests in the north of Vietnam about 10 km from the border with China. Which is almost untouched by the modern life, Lung Khau Nhin still keeps its originals. If you still wonder what the best time to visit Sapa is, list Lung Khau Nhin to the list of attractions in Sapa regardless of the season.

Can Cau Market

Belongs to fair system of Lao Cai, Can Cau Market is only held on Saturday morning. Located 20km from the north of Bac Ha and 9km from the Chinese border, it is a colourful, vibrant market where you will encounter minority peoples and Chinese people from across the border. Like Bac Ha Market, Can Cau sells a similar range of products. So if your timings only enable you to get to one, don't worry that you’re missing out — you’ll get a good experience whichever you visit. As you would expect, the market starts early (around 7.30 am) and closes in the early afternoon so you will want to make an early start to get the most out of the experience. Locals will implore you to drink the local corn wine with them.

If you are interested in joining these unique markets, don't be hesitate to visit the beautiful town of Sapa.