Bac Ha market – a major hill tribe trading centre

Bac Ha is high in the mountains (900m) and near the border with China. It is also a major hill tribe trading centre.

Bac Ha market – a major hill tribe trading centre

Bac Ha market in Sapa, Vietnam

We’d read that Bac Ha has an amazing Sunday market and though full of anticipation for the unexpected, we really weren’t prepared for what lay before us. The main hill tribe (a Vietnam minority) group here is Flower Hmong people, and their clothing is amazingly colorful. Like most markets, this one consisted of clothing, food and animal trade. The animal trade was something else. Elsewhere, animals would be somewhat orderly arranged for sale. Not here! Animals were all over the place – large pigs tied up and lying on the road waiting for a bidder, ponies tied to trees, poultry in cages, etc. etc. No order, the animals were just wherever the seller wanted to place them while he waited for a buyer. But to give a perspective of the ‘character’, for example one motorbike driver had a small cage with mother goat, and countless kids all squashed inside. Another had a small pig tied up and stuffed into a hessian bag with only the snout visible; this was to ensure it could be weighed. All this, and more, all over the central town area. The only ‘defined’ marketplace area was for the dry goods, the buffalo trade, and ‘fast food’.
Neither of us was interested in the ‘fast food’; buffalo offal (and blood) was being stewed in a giant wok, with both the meat and the liquid holding appeal to the hill tribe people!! But then, we supposed that once anyone had smoked their fill of opium (another ‘fast food’ treat beside the offal and rice), they’d not be too caring of the diet.
But, this market had a special attribute – the Flower Hmong people  brews a potent alcohol that has a wide ranging following. We tried some – whew!! It was pure alcohol – and some! We felt that methylated spirits is a weaker drop!!! We came away not quite sure whether the pandemonium (to our orderly way of constructing reality) was a result of culture, opium or moonshine. Maybe we are being too rational – it was precisely a result of all three attributes!!!

Anewworld, member of trip advisor
Christchurch, New Zealand
Source : Sapa reviews, Trip Advisor

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