Every Sunday, Bac Ha hosts the biggest fair near the mountainous highlands and the Chinese border. It is the largest and most colorful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes.
Sapa area is very well known for its mountains and trekking trips, but there are more things to do apart from trekking. One of those things is the Sunday market in Bac Ha village. Bac Ha is located about 80km away from Sapa, 60km from Lao Cai, near the Chinese border, and is a small village famous for its market.
Even if Bac Ha has stunning landscapes and mountains, it hasn’t become a trekking point as Sapa has, it is only famous for its market. During the week, Bac Ha is a peaceful village without tourism, however at Sundays noise and color fill the town, making it a must see for the tourists in the area.
Bac Ha market is the most colorful market
Bac Ha market is the most colorful market in all Lao Cai province and is less touristic than the market in Sapa town. Every Sunday morning, ethnic minorities from the mountain area of Bac Ha, groups of Miao, Hmong, Dao Do, Tay and Giay minorities go to the village market. Here, the ethnic groups dress up with their traditional clothes and meet in the village to buy and sell all type of products, such as spices, tobacco, food, craft-work, clothing,… all kind of local area products. The market area is divided into 7 parts, each of the specialized on one product:
- textile area, where you can buy all kind of materials and fabric you need to make ethnic clothes.
- food market
- horse area
- farm animals area, where you can buy chicken, hen, pigs, buffaloes,…
- street restaurant area
- poultry area
- craft and blacksmith area
For the locals, this market is not only a place to trade and make business, it is a place where they sit, meet and eat with friends that they only see on Sundays, show off their handcraft clothes, find a couple, … to socialize in general. Even if they sometimes have to walk a long way to get to the market, for them it is worth the walk, as the Sunday market is the biggest event of the week.
Location and timetable of Bac Ha market
It is a street market, even if it is said that a building is going to be built to host this growing market. You can find the market in the right side of the main street of the village, Ngoc Uyen street, in the south part of the village.
The market only takes place on Sunday mornings and starts very early. It is opened from 6:00 am until 14:00. The best moment to visit it is around 9:00 because at around 12 many ethnic groups start picking up and leave.
How to get to Bac Ha market
There are no many ways of getting to Bac Ha, as it is a small village in the mountains. However, there is a regular bus line that will take you from Lao Cai or from Hanoi to the village. This is the most economical way of going to Bac Ha, about 3$ the way, but it will take you 90 minutes to drive the 60km that separate Lao Cai from Bac Ha.
Buses from Lao Cai leave at 6:30, 7:00, 12:00, 13:00 and 15:00 and from Bac Ha back to Lao Cai at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 12:10 and 13:00. The most recommendable option is to take the morning bus at 7:00 to Bac Ha and come back at 13:00. This way you will have enough time to see everything and even buy some souvenirs.
If you decide to go from Hanoi to Bac Ha, you may want to take the train to Lao Cai and then the bus to Bac Ha. If you take this option, you should book in advance, as the train tickets for Sundays are very popular.
The most comfortable way of going to Bac Ha is the mini bus service. Some agencies and hotels offer mini-bus or van services for tourists, with 5-12 seats, depending on the service, that for a little more money than the regular bus line, will take you to the market and back. For about 12$ round way, they will pick you up around 7:00 in Lao Cai and bring back at 12:00. This way it will take you 1 hour to get to the market, and they usually leave 3 hours later, after you have had enough time to visit the market.
Another way of getting to Bac Ha is renting a motorbike and riding on your own. This will take you around 3 hours from Sapa, but it is a good way if you want to stop and admire the landscape along the way. Even if this option will be more expensive than the regular bus line, it will allow you travel on your own pace and enjoy the trip in a different way, even if the road may be challenging because of the curves and the heavy traffic.
If you don’t want to ride a motorbike or go on a busy bus, there is always the option of taking a taxi, but this, of course, will be the most expensive way, because even if you take it in Lao Cai, it is 60km.