There’s always something special about traditional markets. They are more than just trading places where people buy and sell commodities, or bargain on a sack of potatoes.
Warm greetings, good conversations and maybe some gossip are often involved in traditional markets, and in Sapa, the blend of trading and social interaction is spiced up by a colorful harmony of traditional costumes and the splendid backcloth of highland nature.
Sapa Local Markets
Visiting traditional markets, especially in Sapa, might be an unprecedented experience for foreigners, as for example, it’s probably not common to find piles of chicken heads as a delicacy in a local market back home.
Below are some of the biggest local markets in Sapa, each convened once a week. Our local guides will take you on a stroll around the market as if you were a local.
Coc Ly Market
Every Tuesday, a little spot on a bank of the Chay River in the mountains is transformed into a busy trading and commercial center. It’s located two-and-a-half hours’ drive, or 95 km, from Sapa.
The Flowery Hmong, Black Dao, Nung, Giay, and Tay are some of ethnic minorities living in the surrounding villages. They gather together to form a medium-sized local market and trade daily commodities, cattle, traditional dress and handicrafts.
Get up early and visit the market. It starts around 7 am and goes on until the afternoon. Our local guide will show you just how unique the market is and if you feel like it, he will lead you on a trek to the nearest local village.
Bac Ha Market
Every Sunday, at around 7.30 am, local minority people such as the Flowery Hmong, the Black Dao, the Tay, the Nung, the La Chi, and the Phu La start to arrange their selling spots in Bac Ha market.
Bac Ha is the biggest local market and is well-known for its wide range of commodities, from a bowl of warm pho, to a live buffalo. You may want to ask our guide’s assistance if you want to bring back some beautiful colorful handmade fabric from the Flowery Hmong people.
It’s advisable to spend a night nearby and make an early visit to the market to avoid the flocks of tourists who usually come later directly from Sapa, which is 110 km or two-and-a-half hours’ drive away.
Lung Khau Nhin Market
Located close to the border with China and around 110 km from Sapa, Lung Khau Nhin market is convened every Thursday morning, starting at 7.30 am, reaching its peak at 9.30 am and ending in the early afternoon.
Compared to the other local markets, Lung Khau Nhin is smaller but older. For years the Black Dao, Giay, Tay and Flowery Hmong have traded their livestock, harvests and handicrafts there.
Muong Hum Market
Muong Hum Market, like Bac Ha, is also open on Sunday, but is smaller and less touristy. You will hardly find any tourists there as the market mostly caters for locals’ needs.
The road to Muong Hum, about 45 km from Lao Cai, is incredibly beautiful, passing Muong Vi Caves and Xeo village with minority people. Though the road winds in one direction then the next, you can relax and rest assured that our experienced drivers always put safety first.
Ethnic minority people such as the Ha Nhi, Phu La, Tu Di, Black Dao, Giay, and Red Hmong start the market early at around 7 am and finish at around 10 or 11 am.
Tips on Visiting Local Markets
Pay Attention to the Market Date and Opening Time
What day is your trip? Let us know so we can arrange your market visit, and inform us if you want to visit any particular market, so we might arrange accordingly, as every market is only open once a week.
The earlier you go, the better it is. By getting there extra-early, you can observe the efforts of local minority people to prepare their trading spots well. After an easy-paced walk at breakfast time, enjoy a real Vietnamese breakfast, pho, at the local market.
If you arrive at Lao Cai by train (we arrange for superior or first class seats) at 6 am, our driver will be ready to take you to Sapa an hour’s drive away; so it might be advisable to rest on the journey before joining the hustle and bustle of the early-morning market.
Allow at Least Half a Day for a Market Visit
The easiest and most interesting way to have a full understanding and experience of the local culture is from visiting a market. There you will meet different ethnic minorities, have time to get to know them, be able to ask our local guide for translation, and enjoy a little chit-chat here and there.
Find out how the Black Hmong dye their indigo fabric, and what the Tay people sell at the market. There are lots of questions to ask and interesting scenes and goods to see and capture. You might need at least half a day and some good trekking shoes for the market visit.
Hire a Local Tour Guide
We cooperate only with the best local tour guides. What’s better than being led by a person who is showing you their backyard?
Local tour guides offer you local experience. They can explain their local culture, traditions, and customs to you and answer your questions about them from a local perspective.
Besides, tourism is one of the main pillars of the local economy. By cooperating with local people, we’re supporting their economy.
Sapa Market Visit Tour
After an 8-hour trip on the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, you will be met by our driver, who will be ready to take you to the local market in Sapa, passing through breath-taking scenery along the way.
After the drive, we will arrive at the local market; which local market will depend on which day you arrive. After a short rest for breakfast, our local guide will lead you through the market.
The local markets in Sapa are always beautiful, as different ethnic minority people wear their ethnic attire, each with their own distinctive features, creating a harmonious and colorful tapestry. Mountainous landscape forms the background, and the whole scenery is really picturesque.
Lunch is served in a local restaurant, and in the afternoon we drive back to the hotel in Sapa town.
You’ll have an early start, embarking on a trek, the pace of which will be up to you.
While guiding you to his or her home village area, the local guide might only need some very simple footwear, as locals are so used to such walking, but for the visitor, a good pair of trekking shoes might be useful, especially during the rainy season (from May to October).
If you prefer to visit an alternative specific local market, we can try and arrange accordingly, so that your driver will drive directly from the hotel to that market. In that case, it’s probably advisable to leave as early as 5 am, as the markets start around 7 am.
Have a leisurely afternoon. You can enjoy some free time and prepare for the night train back to Hanoi.
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