One of the main tourist attractions in Sapa is the abundance of charming local markets held in the district that gather different communities and ethnicities. These colorful and unique markets shoot up when sunrise, displaying a wide range of commodities for sale. People from different ethnic groups come here together to sell their products or buy supplies for the coming week, as well as participate in social and community activities. For travelers, it is a great opportunity to buy souvenirs, as well as meet locals and have genuine cultural experiences with them.
Because all the markets take place on different days of the week, so let’s find out what interests you the most prior to and plan your visit.
Monday: Ban Phiet Market
In Ban Phiet market, most of the stalls belong to the H’mong ethnic group, specifically the white H’mong. The market trading activities usually take place early from the beginning of dawn. Although the scale is relatively small, you will be surprised by its vibrant atmosphere, colors, smells and friendly banter.
Tuesday: Coc Ly Market
Located in a picturesque location near the Chay River, Coc Ly market attracts locals from all over the surrounding areas. At Coc Ly market, you can meet people of many different ethnicities, such as the Hmong, Phu La, Black Dao and Nung, all of whom are identified by their unique costumes.
At the first glance, the market seems to be a whirlwind of chaos and commotion, but upon closer inspection, you’ll realize that it’s extremely well organized. The market is divided into four zones, each displaying a different kind of goods. The textile zone is of particular interest to visitors, as here they can buy traditional ethnic garments as a souvenir. The remaining three areas are divided into produce, livestock, and food/beverage zones, where you’ll have a chance to try some tasty local dishes.
Wednesday: Cao Son Market
This remote market site is located in Moung Khoung district, in the north of Lao Cai. Because of its remote location, rather few foreign travelers visited Cao Son Market. Therefore, when coming here you will get a real experience of the culture here, and don’t be surprised if the locals show excessive interest in you.
The crowds in the market are the Hmong, Phu La, Dao, and Han ethnic groups, who dress in their most beautiful traditional costumes. If you’re interested in trying some local food, you can sit down with the locals to enjoy a hot bowl of Thang Co.
Thusday: Lung Khau Nhin Market
Lung Khau Nhin is further north of Lao Cai than other markets, located just 20km from the Chinese border. Despite being concealed by epic mountains and forest, Lung Khau Nhin market shows the most vibrant and energetic atmosphere every Thursday right from the early morning. Most of the merchants here are H’mong, Nung, Man, and Kin. Its remote location seems like a trouble; however, it’s really a plus point for those who want to truly experience the closest and truest environment of a local market of Vietnamese ethnic minorities which is not extremely affected by travellers. Most of the products which are displayed to exchange here include all the fresh ingredients and animals.
Friday: Chau Market
Chau Market is another excellent example of preserving the local traditions and customs of Sapa. This weekly market is not only a place to buy and sell goods but also seems to be a celebration or festival where the locals can meet and socialize with other villagers.
Saturday: Can Cau Market
Can Cau Market is famous for being the largest water buffalo market in the Northwest of Vietnam. The market is held every Saturday in Si Ma Cai town, where locals from the surrounding areas bring their strongest and biggest buffalo for sale. The market’s characteristic is to emphasize the central role of buffalo in everyday life, which is a strong and healthy animal that can serve a variety of purposes in agriculture.
Therefore, the buffalo trade is a highly lucrative business and helps the animal to be appreciated. All trading is performed by oral agreement, and watching traders examine buffalo is a fascinating experience.
Sunday: Bac Ha, Sapa and Muong Hum Market
Bac Ha Market, held every Sunday, is the biggest and most vibrant market and event of the week. People from Hmong, Phu La, Black Dzao, Tay, and Nung ethnic groups arrive at Bac Ha market to sell all kinds of goods. Anything such as fresh products, foods, medicinal plants, clothes, and jewelry can all be displayed and purchased here.
In particular, Bac Ha market is famous for horse-trading that has become an attractive event here. You will be mesmerized by the market’s lively atmosphere and the sounds of people welcoming àn joking around with friends and family. It is certain that you will feel the market is more like a festival than a regular marketplace.