Weekend market fairs - the unique culture of Lao Cai

Local market has become an unique cultural feature of ethnic minority groups living in the mountainous areas. Visitors to Lao Cai will have the opportunity to experience unique market fairs which cannot be found anywhere else.

Local markets are not only a location where goods are exchanged but also a place to show unique cultural tradition and daily life of local people. Tourists can immerse in a friendly atmosphere and discover beauty of well-preserved cultural traditions that have existed for a long time.

The market is also an ideal dating place for couples and love-seeking men and women.

Monday is the time of Ban Phiet market; Tuesday - Coc Ly market; Wednesday - Cao Son market; Thursday - Lung Khau Nhin market; Friday - pot market; Saturday - Can Cau, Pha Long, Y Ty markets; Sunday - Bac Ha, Sa Pa, Muong Khuong, Si Ma Cai, and Bat Xat markets. Let's explore some of Lao Cai’s well-known markets!

Y Ty market in Bat Xat district is always attractive to tourists. (Photo: Như Quỳnh)

Muong Hum Market

Muong Hum market is held every Sunday in the highland district of Bat Xat-Lao Cai, which is about 40 km from Lao Cai city.

Nearby Muong Hum market is a stream of pure water along with a small valley surrounded by layers of mountains and clouds. The market is a place to exchange goods and a dating place of couples. It is also where locals of H'Mong, Ha Nhi, Red Dao, Giay, Dao Tuyen ethnic groups can meet and have fun. The vivid atmosphere is created by people walking, shopping; some others leading horses, carrying fruits and food to exchange.

Colorful costumes of highland ethnic women in Muong Hum market (photo: Như Quỳnh)

On weekdays, visitors can’t help admiring the charming, majestic and poetic sceneries of Muong Hum with layers of mountains and clouds. When the fair is open, they can’t take their eyes off the H'Mong women wearing colorful wigs made of wool and pretty dresses that look like blooming flowers.

The costume of the Red Dao ethnic group is sparkling with bright red scarves, indigo black clothes with gentle patterns on the chest, and many silver ornaments.

Bac Ha Market

Bac Ha market is located in Bac Ha town in Bac Ha district, Lao Cai province. This is one of the oldest local markets that still retain the simplicity and cultural identities of northwestern people. The market is held every Sunday and closed at 2pm the same day. It gets more bustling on holidays and Lunar New Year.

Bac Ha market is located about 65 km from Lao Cai city. The road leading to the market is easy to travel. Along the way is winding mountain passes, flower fields, terraced fields of corn and rice. Visitors can see groups of people dressed in colorful outfits, laughing and having fun; women carrying heavy loads of vegetables and fruits; or horses walking slowly with bags of different sizes on their backs.

Bustling Bac Ha market in Lao Cai (Internet source).

Bac Ha market has 4 areas for cattle trading, grocery, brocade, jewelry and food. Bac Ha is the only market in our country that has a separated area for horse trading with hundreds of horse breeds.

You can go shopping, enjoy delicious dishes such as Thang Co (stewed horse meat), five-color sticky rice, corn cakes, Ban Pho wine and immerse yourself in a lively, cheerful atmosphere and learn about the unique cultural beauty of ethnic minorities in the Northwest.

Goods sold at the market are usually tubers and fruits of the Northwest mountains. (Photo: Như Quỳnh)

Sa Pa Love Market

Located right in the center of Sa Pa town and held every Sunday, love market is the place where customs, habits and beliefs of local ethnic groups such as Dao, H'Mong are fully demonstrated.

Besides trading activities, every fair has festival activities such as dancing, singing, flute. Local women become more attractive with colorful costumes and silver ornaments. Men from Dao ethnic group wear Cham shirts and towels neatly. Each of them carries a cassette to record voices of the women they like.

Sa Pa Love Market - one of the cultural identities of Lao Cai (Photo: Xuân Quỳnh)

From evening till dawn, young couples sing traditional songs and perform traditional dances. The sound of the trumpet and the flute stirs the normally quiet mountain and forest space. After each fair, couples will know each other's names so that the next time they meet, they will become closer and more attached. Lots of couples who had known each other at the market have get married.

Visitors will enjoy ethnic dances, songs, try on traditional costumes and take commemorative photos with hospitable locals. You can also learn more about typical customs, habits of ethnic groups.

Visitors also have the chances to enjoy a variety of delicious food including grilled dishes with unique spices called mac khen (the Thai ethnic group’s wild pepper), grilled meat skews, corn wine or apple cider. They will be unforgettable experiences in your journey. Low-cost souvenirs handcrafted by local people such as bracelets, bags, wallets are recommendation of gifts for your family and friends.

Lao Cai markets have themselves unique features that cannot be found anywhere else. Tourists can explore and enjoy bustling atmosphere of mountain lands and people. They will not be disappointed by cultural identities and friendliness of local people.

Let’s visit Lao Cai to discover attracting markets right now!

Quynh Lien