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!
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!