In the north of Vietnam, one of the highlights which attract a large number of tourists is ethnic markets. These markets are places for residents of ethnic minorities from villages and towns lying mainly in the mountains to exchange local products. Many ethnic markets in northern Vietnam have hundreds of years of history and maintain the cultural traditions of ethnic groups such as H’mong, Zao, Giay, Tay and Nung. Visiting ethnic markets in the north of Vietnam is a great opportunity to explore the unique cultural world of ethnic minorities groups in Vietnam, which you have never seen before.
1. Bac Ha Market
Bac Ha market is about three hour drive from Sapa and just occurs every Sunday. It is one of the biggest and the most famous markets in all of North Vietnam. On the market days, from the early morning, all paths and mountain roads are full of people and horses pouring into the market. Many different ethnic groups including Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Zao, Tay and Nung gather to buy and sell local products. Besides popular products such as livestock, wares and rice wine, you can find many local souvenirs in the market such as textiles, fashion accessories. Additionally, trying some ethnic specialties like “Thang Co” blood porridge, a popular dish of the H’Mong and other local people is also a good experience.
A maze of color at Bac Ha Market
2. Coc Ly Market
Taking place only on Tuesday, Coc Ly market is located about 35km from Bac Ha, on a hill side lying along the famous Chay river and surrounded by two lush mountain ranges. Coc Ly is a small but very colorful market with colorful fabrics and items of traditional dress.
Young and old H’Mong women wearing skirts and hats with different types of embroidered flowers
In the market, tourists can see diverse collection of different colors of the costumes worn by ethnic people and the handicrafts they sell at the market. Young and old H’mong women wearing skirts and hats with different types of embroidered flowers crowd the market during the Coc Ly market’s opening hours. Scarves, clothes, decorations and other items made of “thổ cẩm” (ethnic fabric) on sale also diversify color to the bazaar by the Chay River.
3. Dong Van Market
Dong Van market is located in the outrageously beautiful, rugged and mountainous province of Ha Giang and is only held every Sunday. This is a place where ethnic minorities including Mong, Han, Zao, Giay and Tay gather to do their business and exchange local products. Some of them have to walk to the market from 3am, pass the way of tens of km to join the market.
A corner of Dong Van market
The unique feature of Dong Van market is that products that people bring to the market for exchanging are mainly agricultural products. You can see some special vegetables, corn, and even chicken, cows and “lon cap nach” – a small pig that people carry under their arm.
4. Meo Vac Market
Also located in Ha Giang Province, the Meo Vac cattle market is held every Sunday. This is not only place where the locals living in the karst plateau trade livestock but also the gathering place for the H’mong people. People selling cattle have to wake up from midnight to walk their livestock to the market. Many walk dozens of kilometers, climb high mountains and cross streams to get there; however, they are still always smiling and cheerful.
Meo Vac cattle market
In the market, you can see the traditional costumes of the local Mong people with men wearing long black dresses and women dressing in their best, most colorful costumes and their children running alongside them. Additionally, there is also food shops selling “Thang co” and fragrant maize wine near the area reserved for selling cattle to serve both locals and foreign tourists.
5. Muong Hum Market
Muong Hum Market is about 45km from north-western Lao Cai Town, passing over the complex of Muong Vi caves and grottoes and Xeo village. The market is held each Sunday morning and is a gathering place for Hmong, Dao, Ha Nhi and Giay people trading their local wares. On the market days, from the early morning, the town is awakened by human and horses sounds and colored by the costume worm by local people coming down from mountain around. In the market, the elderly often have heart – to – heart talks while young people are absorbed in intimate chats or fix on their wedding date. Specially, visiting the Muong Hum Market, visitors can have chance to be warmly welcomed and invited to have a familiar meal and a cup of heart- warming wine by the locals.
Smiles of young ethnic girls in Muong Hum Market
Visiting ethnic markets, you can buy a lot of souvenirs such as textiles, jewelry and decorative accessories which is all made by the locals. Besides, you also have chance to taste genuine local dishes and learn about the cultural traditions of ethnic minority groups. All these things give you an insight into unique daily life of the ethnic groups, which you cannot find in elsewhere in the world.