With strong heritage ties to a handful of different minority cultures and with the personal touch of everything being handmade, shopping in Sapa is a special event for everyone. You know that what you are buying is not only helping to support the locals but also represents a part of their culture.
Asia Highlights makes sure that all who choose to travel with us are taken to only the best and most authentic markets and shops found in and around Sapa. Below you will find a list of some of our favorite items and the places to find them.
- Bac Ha Night Market on Sunday is one of the best markets Sapa has to offer, and many people travel long distances just for this one market.
- Can Cau Market is located only 7 kilometers from the Chinese border and is a great Saturday activity.
- You can find all kinds of custom embroideries on all types of clothes and cloths.
- Rest with the peace of mind that all fabric is locally grown and made from hemp found in northwestern Vietnam.
Sapa's shopping atmosphere
Walking into a local market can feel like stepping back in time. In many of the outdoor markets you can see that people have carried all their goods with them, sometimes many kilometers, just for the chance to sell a few items on the one day of the week that this particular market is open.
Larger markets that are set up inside buildings can feel like walking through a maze with goods almost spilling out of the stalls, trying to grab the attention of the shopper walking by. These markets often have narrow walkways winding through and leading you on a little adventure that is worth going for.
Traditionally, everything sold in these markets had a use and purpose in the lives of locals. After years of having visitors from around the world, the locals have modified many of their handicrafts to better fit the needs and wants of the foreign shopper, while still maintaining traditional elements.
Where to shop in Sapa
Sapa has a variety of places to buy souvenirs. For comfort, you can always go into more established businesses like the Indigo Cat, which is a store featuring goods that are all made by women in the local area.
There are many traditional markets in and around Sapa which we encourage those who travel with us to explore, and of course there will always be locals who set up at the roadsides, trying to sell their goods.
Sapa doesn't just have one market; the town of Sapa has a different market every day of the week! One of the most well known markets, and one that we recommend, is the Bac Ha Night Market on Sunday. This market attracts many people from all walks of life, which always makes for an interesting visit.
When visiting these markets, we strongly urge you to meet the locals and try some local dishes. Most of these dishes are simple grilled meats, fish and vegetables with delicious chilly sauce or lemon-salt sauce to help bring out the natural flavor.
- Monday: Ban Theit and Phong Hai Market are both smaller markets that can give you a taste of authentic local life, but usually do not have a large selection of handicrafts for sale.
- Tuesday: Coc Ly Market is a great place to buy traditional clothing and learn about the local cultures of the surrounding hill tribes, such as the Nung, Tay, Black Zao and Flower Hmong.
- Wednesday:Sin Cheng Market is located in the Si Ma Cai district and brings together the people of the White Hmong, Flower Hmong, Giay, Tay and Black Dao. Traditional clothing and handicrafts can be found at this market.
- Thursday: Lung Khau Nhin Market is located high in the mountains of the Tram Ton pass. You will find various small tribes such as the Hmong, White Tai and Tai Lu there, selling their handmade products. Well worth a look for the more adventurous type.
- Friday: Chau or Phong Hair Markets are a great way to spend your Friday night, or just a nice stop before dinner.
- Saturday: Can Cau Market is located only 7 kilometers from the Chinese border, and offers an authentic experience into a truly local market. Take a guide with you and you will be treated to a beautiful trek, rounded off by some one-of-a-kind shopping.
- Sunday: Bac Ha Market is the biggest and most famous market of Sapa. You can buy a variety of things there, such as handicrafts, traditional clothing and local food.
Muong Hum Market can also be found on Sunday and is the least touristic market in Sapa. It is located in the Ban Seo district, which remains mostly undiscovered by tourists, and allows you to have a truly authentic experience with this local hill tribe.
What to buy
The shopping in Sapa does not just represent Vietnamese culture, but instead brings you closer to many minority groups living in northern Vietnam. The Hmong and Dao minority groups, for example, are happy to share their traditional style of clothing as well as to give you a closer look into their way of making their unique designs.
Like most places in Southeast Asia, it can be difficult to tell what is a genuine traditional souvenir and what is just a trinket. To help you find the best souvenirs while in Sapa and Vietnam, we have given you some suggestions below of things to look for when shopping.
The Hmong are most famous for their silverwork. In most of the villages you will also still be able to find a local blacksmith that specializes in making farming tools and weapons. The silversmiths now also make some more modern souvenirs such as jewelry that are loved by tourists and are small enough to fit into your luggage.
Not only are all the clothes handmade, but even the fabric that is used to make them is locally grown from hemp in northwest Vietnam. These fabrics are turned into beautiful traditional clothes with some modern variations for tourists.
Most are decorated with bright colors and meaningful traditional motifs that are derived from nature. These motifs often hold great symbolism and meaning for the local minority groups. If you do have more time you can get almost anything custom made, not only to fit you but also to have the decorations of your choice.
There are all kinds of handicrafts found in Sapa, such as backpacks, messenger bags, scarfs, wallets, purses, and even some headbands and hair accessories. Most of these are popping with colors that are very pleasing to the eye. You will frequently be able to see the people selling these goods, also making more while they are at the market.
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