Tag Archives: markets

Bac Ha Market

Every Sunday, throngs of people travel to Bac Ha for the Bac Ha Sunday Market. Tourists travel by bus from Sapa and Lao Cai, and locals arrive by motorbike, truck, bicycle and even foot. Some wake up before the sun rises and spend hours traveling to the market. It not only serves as a giant hub for trade and commerce, but it is also a major social event. The women spend all morning together either selling or buying goods for the week, and the men crowd together at small tables eating intestine soup and getting sloppy off of local rice wine. It’s crowded, loud, hot, hectic and smelly- just like every good market should be!

Bac Ha has your usual selection of produce, home goods and souvenirs, but it also has a huge variety of live animals! Birds, ducks, dogs, water buffalo and more are all in high abundance. You can spend a couple bucks on a carton of chickens, or drop over a thousand dollars on a water buffalo. As cool as this all sounds, Bac Ha is not for the faint hearted. The atmosphere is quite intense and a walk through the raw meat section can have even the biggest meat eaters contemplating vegetarianism. But if you are making the trip all the way up to Sapa, it would be a shame to miss the Bac Ha Market. It gives you a great lens to see into the lives of the minority people in the north, and there is a lot of great shopping…my parents and I went a little crazy picking out gifts and souvenirs! You can write about it all you want, but you’ll only get the real feel of the place by going there. Pictures will give you an idea, but definitely won’t do it justice. But it’s worth a try, right? Enjoy!

Got Chilis?

Raw meat for sale - this definitely looks sanitary....

Blood Sausage and Meat ready to eat - look appetizing to you?

 

Men eating and drinking - they probably start around 9am in the morning too!

 

Flower Hmong women selling rice wine.

Babies!!!!

Water Buffalo for sale at the Bac Ha Market - people can spend years saving up for one of these.

 

A selection of knives and tools.

 

Piles of shoes!

 

Trinkets and gifts

 

Table Runners and Wall Hangings

One last word of advice if you are heading to Bac Ha Market: everyone is going to try to rip you off! Don’t be fooled,  you can usually bargain your way down to half of the starting price. Sometimes half of the fun shopping at these markets is seeing what kind of deals you can get!

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Scenes from The Mekong and The Floating Markets

Even though we were a little disappointed about our afternoon/evening in Can Tho, Annie and I remained optimistic because we knew our boat tour on Wednesday would be fun. And it was! We woke up at 4:30AM and met our tour guide in the lobby of the guesthouse at 5. She did not speak English very well so we didn’t know what we were actually doing or where we were going, but we followed her and eventually made it to the riverside and hopped on a boat. The walk to the river was an interesting one because it was pitch black outside, but there were still lots of people out and about. There were a number of people jogging or stretching and the local street vendors had already set up their stands. The day starts early in Vietnam!

Just getting on the boat, still pitch black out

Our boat was about the size of a canoe and powered by a motor controlled by our tour guide. We were on the water in the dark for about half an hour, but our visibility was decent and we were able to witness a lot that was going on around us. The river in Can Tho is completely surrounded by homes and local shops and restaurants. In addition to houses built on the land, there are also a number of people who lives on boats. They park along the side of the river at night and during the day are used to sell/transport goods. It was really fun witnessing the morning routines of all the people who live on the river. For these people, their lives revolve around the Mekong River. All of the homes on the river have doors that open up to the water and every morning people brush their teeth, bath and wash the dishes in the river. When it started getting light out, around 6AM, we saw children getting ready for school and adults making breakfast. All the people who live on the river keep their windows and doors open, so you can see right into their homes and see what everyone is doing. I can’t think of a better time or place to use the expression “Good Morning Vietnam!!!!!’ Here are some pictures to help you get an idea of what it’s like early in the morning.

Just getting light out on the Mekong

A woman washing her dishes outside her house

More houses on the Mekong

Stopping for gas at a floating gas station

It took us about an hour and a half to get to the first market. A floating market basically consists of a bunch of people selling fresh fruits and vegetables on their boats. They are all in very close proximity and in order to get access to the vendors need a boat to row through the mass of vendors and customers. The boats that people sell their fresh fruits and vegetables on are almost always where they live as well. So in addition to fresh produce, it is not uncommon to see clothes hanging to dry, hammocks set up to sleep on, shrines and incense used to honor dead ancestors, and people completing daily chores on the boats. Our tour guide bought us some grapefruit, papaya and fresh coconut from the first market.

Approaching the floating market

SO MANY BANANAS!!!

Navigating through the market

Giant Coconut!!!

View of town from the market

After exploring the first market, our guide took us through some less crowded side canals to a local homestay establishment to have breakfast. We ate around 8:30AM and Annie and I were pretty tired at that point so we both ordered a cafe su da (iced coffee with condensed milk) to wake up. Unfortunately the coffee didn’t really work because we both fell asleep on the boat after breakfast and on our way to the next market!

Our table at breakfast

cafe su da

The second market we visited is called Cai Rang Market and it is the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta. Cai Rang sold a lot of fruits, but they also had a huge selection of vegetables as well. Some boats specialize in one food and others sell a variety. You can tell what a boat is selling because vendors will stick whatever food they have on a huge stick that stands above the boat. It’s a pretty effective way to let people know what you have to offer. The boats at Cai Rang were, for the most part, larger than the boats at the first market…plenty of room for an entire family to live/sleep on the boat.  I wish our guide had spoken a little English because I really want to know where and when they get all their produce to sell. That is something I’ll have to do some research on. For now I’ll leave you with some more pictures of the market. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have an entry up about the islands around the towns of My Tho and Ben Tre. But enjoy these pictures for now!

Approaching Cai Rang

So much cabbage!

Boats at Cai Rang Market

Our wonderful tour guide!

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Siem Reap and more

I wanted to write a post about the Russian Market but unfortunately the regular shops close before we get home from school. To make things even more difficult I didn’t bring my camera the one time we went to eat there at night so I have zero pictures of the place. The good news is two of my housemates, Stephanie and Sean, had their cameras when we went there for dinner and snapped some pictures that are now posted on their blog. So if you are interested, check out their site to read about and see the Russian Market. They also have an earlier post with pictures of the house we are living in. Here is the link: http://ss-abroad.blogspot.com/

Last week we spent most of our time at a local university in class from 9am – 5:30pm. Some of the things we are learning are interesting and will definitely come in handy when we actually start to teach but some things are just plain tedious, repetitive and boring. We get a good amount of breaks during the school day but by 5:30 we are pretty exhausted. But we usually rally by nighttime and have had a bunch of fun nights exploring Phnom Penh.

This past weekend we took a six-hour bus ride to Siem Reap, which is in northern Cambodia. The bus was the tiniest and jankiest thing you’ve ever seen and I’m still amazed that we fit over 20 people in there. Needless to say the bus ride was long and uncomfortable, but it was totally worth it. Angkor Wat is the largest religious complex in the world and is definitely the most beautiful, massive and impressive place I have ever been. We spent the whole day exploring all of the different temples spanning the complex. One of the temples is the location where they shot “Tomb Raider”! As we walked through the grounds I couldn’t get over how much manpower it must have took to build these structures. EVERYTHING is made out of stone and the temples were built in the late 12th century when they obviously did not have the technology we have today. Furthermore, almost all of the temple walls are carved with detailed relief depicting religious figures/events, wars, celebrations and everyday activities. It’s really an unbelievable sight and it’s something that I hope all of you can go see for yourself one day.

On our way back from Siem Reap we stopped at a less touristy temple which was equally, if not more, awesome. We didn’t have an official guide with us so I don’t really know much about the history of the temple, but many stones have fallen and accumulated within the temple walls. Basically, the place was a giant jungle gym. We spent the afternoon crawling around the rocks and exploring the grounds. My friend Dana and I ran into a couple Khmer kids while inside the temple and they acted as our tour guides. Khmer children are seriously the cutest kids ever.

I only have a few more days left in Phnom Penh and I am actually really sad to leave. Cambodia is such an amazing country. It is definitely overlooked by the rest of the world in a number of different ways. I don’t think people realize how beautiful the natural land is and how many mind blowing buildings were erected in the past. The people here are also the most down to earth, friendly, happy and good natured people you will ever meet. Every day I look forward to riding the tuk tuk to school and watching people go about their daily routines. In many ways, life here is much simpler than in the U.S. People here don’t obsess over material goods or constantly worry about if what they are doing is hygienic or safe. Little kids don’t have rooms full of toys and videogames. Instead they chase each other around in the streets. To me, it seems like most people here just make do with what they have and are happy about it.

What amazes me the most is that people here can be so happy even though they are still suffering the consequences of what happened to their country not even thirty years ago. When you visit Cambodia or even Laos, you notice that there is a huge age group that is underrepresented. You see tons of people in their twenties and thirties but there are substantially less people in their forties and fifties. This is because during the 1970s there was a massive genocide in the country that wiped out about a quarter of the population. Today I visited Tuol Sleng (also known as S-21), which is a former high school turned prison, where the Khmer Rouge kept people for interrogation, torture and execution. Walking around the site was extremely haunting because they have kept everything intact since the time the prison was discovered. There is still barbed wire hanging over all the windows and terraces that was put up to prevent people from committing suicide. You can go inside the cells where prisoners were kept and there are even visible blood stains left on the floors. There is also a huge photographic exhibit where they have pictures of all of the victims and it was hard for me to view because I wanted to look at each face, but it was literally impossible because there are too many photographs. The prison operated for a little over three years and it is estimated that over 20,000 people died at S-21. When the Vietnamese army finally came to rescue the prisoners there were only seven left alive.  It was a very somber experience walking around but I think it is so important that I went. I knew that there was genocide in Cambodia but I definitely did not realize to what extent it had happened. People in the Western world seem to overlook the genocide in Cambodia and I wish that more people knew about what happened here.

It’s hard to jump back into the swing of things here after visiting S-21, but our busy schedules definitely help with that. We have a jam-packed week including a booze cruise tomorrow night, send off party on Thursday and trip to the beach over the weekend. I leave for Vietnam on Sunday and although I am sad to be leaving Cambodia, I’m very excited to get to Vietnam. I definitely want to live in Vietnam for a period of time, but I have such strong feelings toward Cambodia that I am highly considering moving here before going back to the States. But I guess only time will tell. I didn’t want this entry to be a debbie downer so I’ll leave you guys with some pictures to look at. Pictures take a bajillion years to load on my old-ass computer so I’m only gonna post a few here. To see the full collection of them go look on my facebook. I just made an album entitled Siem Reap. Lots of love from Cambodia!

Bayon Temple

Relief of Chinese army in Bayon Temple

Baphuon Temple - under construction

Ta Prohm AKA Tomb Raider

Ta Prohm

Angkor Wat

Inside Angkor Wat

Beng Mealea

Climbing around Beng Mealea

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