Bac Ha Market is one of Vietnam’s biggest highland markets. As its name suggests, it can be found in Bac Ha town, which is in Sapa. What makes this market so unique is not only the wide array of handicrafts on sale but also its status as a meeting area for the area’s ethnic minorities.
The first thing you’ll notice when traversing this market is the sheer abundance of color and character. The vibrant multicolored clothes, jewelry, and embroidery on display are dazzling and highly tempting.
There’s a distinctly authentic vibe to the Bac Ha Market as, unlike the central market, most of the shoppers are locals. The Flower Hmong and Giay communities arrive at the market prior to sunrise, often traveling large distances to get there. Some take motor transport, others ride horses, and a handful walks all the way – with their products in hand or loaded on their backs.
The fascinating amalgamation of ethnic cultures is enough to draw you to Bac Ha Market, but the quality of the products on sale definitely shouldn’t be understated.
Handmade ethnic souvenirs are a common sight in this market and you’ll find everything from sparkling jewelry to intricate brocade fabrics. Browsing along the bustling market you’ll find plenty of affordable Vietnamese gift ideas if you’re souvenir shopping.
Some of the most impressive items on display include complicated pieces of embroidery and large, delicately woven fabric items. You can buy clothing items, ranging from pants and shorts to full dresses and colorful hats.
It isn’t just a profit the locals seek, however, as the Bac Ha Market is a highly social place for the local communities to meet and engage with one another. The market has even been known to be a place for local men to look for potential romantic partners.
There’s a strong sense of community on show here, demonstrated by the chatter of local communities who flock to the market to meet each other.
Food and Drink
The food corner is always the market’s busiest for good reason. There’s an abundance of fresh, local delicacies on sale and the locals can be seen enjoying this well-earned subsistence.
Thang co, a dish local to Sapa, is available here and is one of the most popular dishes in the region. It is traditionally made from horse meat, though it can feature cuts of beef along with cow organs, and resembles a stew.
Corn wine is traditionally drunk to wash a dish of thang co down. The locals at Bac Ha Market are very proud of their culinary origins, and markets such as this are a great way for them to celebrate their culture.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Bac Ha Market is around the New Year as this is when trade is at its peak and celebrations will be at their zenith.
Whilst it’s possible to interact with the locals, it’s important to act respectfully and behave like an observer. Unlike other Vietnamese markets, Bac Ha is a lot less touristy in nature.
How to Get There
Though a trip to the Bac Ha Market is far from straightforward, the increasing development of the Sapa region is making it easier to get to. The Bac Ha District is located 100 km, almost 3 hours northeast of Sapa town, and about 1.5 hours from Lao Cai City.
Sapa is around four to six hours away from Hanoi and can be reached via bus, train, limo van, or driven via or motorcycle. It won’t be hard to find transportation options back and forth. You’ll need to take the highway to Lao Cai City and from there, it’s another 66 kilometers to go.
The best thing to do is arrange day tour, via a shuttle or driver to take you there from Sapa or Lao Cai city, depending on wherever you’re staying. If you have your own motorbike that is also an option and would give you peace of mind to take your time at the market. Though, your driver will likely arrange to take you home as well, so no worries, shop away.
Address: Bac Ha district, Lao Cai province, Vietnam