HILL TRIBE MARKETS AROUND SAPA
Nothing can prepare you for the riot of color and activity at the regional minority markets that can be found dotted around the Sapa region. Most of the markets are open only once a week in the morning. Make sure you’ve brought enough film or your camera’s batteries are fully charged, as they are a photographer’s delight!
Can Cau market (Saturday)
Can cau market
Can cau market is one of the most fascinating open-air markets in the region, specialising in livestock. It’s 20km North of Bac Ha and just 9km south of the Chinese border. Visitors are generally H’mong groups from highland villages. The local H’mong are the famous variegated or Flower H’mong due to the intricate and colourful nature of their costumes, and their colourful dresses makes is a beautiful sight. Almost every Saturday around 8 different minorities are represented at the market. Travel is often made by horseback as a way of carrying the heavy loads to and from market. Can Cau also attracts a large number of Chinese traders, evidenced by the booming dog trade here.
Bac Ha market (Sunday)
Some 100km from Sapa, this is the most famous market in the region and more along the lines of what Sapa was once like. It is a trading centre and meeting place for couples, friends, and relatives, and it is a typical weekly activity for the H’Mong and other minority groups living in the locality. Here, various hilltribes converge every Sunday morning to conduct commerce. Local products for sale or barter are carried on horseback, you will be able to find, buffaloes, horses, blacksmiths, saddlers, traditional medicine doctors, clothing and local artifacts. At the fair, adventurous gastronomes can try “thang co” blood porridge, a popular dish of the H’Mong and other local people. As a visitor, you’re part of the trade here because folks are keen to sell you their wares, but this market isn’t as much about the tourist buck (yet) as it is about small-time business and fellowship. Frequented by H’mong, Dao, Tay, Nung and Phu La. Be sure to arrive by 9am as the market finished around lunchtime.
Cocly Market (Tuesday)
It is the colorful market in a mountainous area where the Flower H’mong mainly gathers to exchange their homemade products.
This Tuesday market is about 70 km from Sapa. You can get here via a fairly good road, or by road and river. Coc ly is a small village on the Chay river inhabited by the Flower H’mong Minority people. The Flower H’mong traditionally wear a distinctive and bright coloured costume. They are a gentle, softly spoken people who live in the steep mountainous country close to the Chinese border. Because Coc Ly is more remote than Sapa, the dress and way of life is more traditional than in the large centers. The market deals in fruit, vegetable, pork and chickens, in addition to colourful fabrics and items of traditional dress. There is a buffalo sale in progress and many of these placid animals are tethered close to the market. Buffalo are still widely used in the growing process, especially in the mountainous regions. Horse are an important form of transport in the North West and a quite a few, sturdy ponies were tied to tree around the market. The horse carry a light timber frame on their back to carry produce to and from the market.After visiting the market, which is the most fresh and unspoiled market of the region, offering a wide range of different colorful ethnic minorities such as Flower C’mon, Black Dao, Tay , Fula, Lachi, Sandui and Nung….there will be an exciting boat cruise winding you through a breathtaking, out of this-world landscape where the mountain grow from water presenting their most hidden mysteries, including caves and tiny minority…
Muong Hum Market – Sunday
From Lao Cai station to North-west about 45 kms is Muong Hum market, which has preserved nearly intact its life – style, imbued with culture tradition. Muong Hum market convenes on every Sunday is a place where local people including the Giay, Dao, White H’mong and Ha Nhi meet and communicate. The town is awakening by human and horses sounds and colored by the costume worm by local people come down from mountain around. Those who live in the upper reaches of the mountains such as the Mong or Red Dao come down to sell specific products such as cardamom and mountain plants. On the day, the elderly often have heart – to – heart talks while young people are absorbed in intimate chats or fix on their wedding date. In Muong Hum, it’s worth taking a sip of the local brew – here it’s paddy rice brandy from the Dao village of San Lung. It’s become quite a famous tipple.
Much more can speak about Muong Hum market. This peaceful mountainous area has in itself numerous traditional cultural features that are well reflected in festivals.
Lung Phin Market – Sunday
This small market is between Can Can market and Bac Ha town, about 12km from the town. It’s less busy than other markets, and is open on Sunday. It is a good place lo move onto once the tour buses arrive in Bac Ha from Sapa, and has a very real feel.
If most of the mountain markets in Vietnam happen on weekend, Lung Phin is a different one which is rich local culture meaning. This is based on the date of 12 animal designations in clued Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare/Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep/Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. This market is every day of Monkey and Tiger. From the late afternoon of the day before the people gather here from the surrounding areas and who have one night meeting friends who come from other villages. The old people talk about their family, children, works…while young people talk about love and mariage…some of them would come with instruments and dance to warm up the cold night. The morning begins earlier than normal day with sound of people talking, chatting, laughing, singing, steeping…since the rooster announce first watch on all trails leading to the market. The market is right on the hillside with some thatched huts where at the corner they tie animals.
Muong Khuong Market – Sunday
Big market with a variety of ethnic groups, Mong, Dao, Nung and others, including visitors from as far away asChina come to sell their products. Pa Zi women can be found selling traditional incense made from bark and resin of scented trees
Lung Khau Nhin Market – Thursday
Take places on Thursday – 115 km to North – East from Sapa
Pha Long Market – Saturday
Very rural market, ethnic groups include, the H’mong, Tou Zi , Pa Zi and Tou Lao. Along the road can be found several Nung and Mong villages, often consisting of traditional houses constructed with baked earth tiled roofs.
Binh Lu & Tam Duong Market – Sunday
Binh Lu and Tam Duong market is located on the other side of Sapa, passing the 1900 meter Tram Ton pass, Viet Nam ‘s highest mountain pass and considered the most beautiful stretch of road in the country. The town is bustling with activity as the local hill tribes gather for their weekly market day, amazing tribal markets in Binh Lu where thousand of Thai Kadai language groups such as Tai Lu, Tai Laos, White Tai, and H’mong – Yao group (black Yao , Yao Lantien..), Giay, Khomu.. comes to buy and sell their own produces.
SAPA LOVE MARKET
Sapa love market
There used to be a love market in town on Saturday night until late 1990s where tribal teenagers from villages near and far trek into town to meet, sing, impress, entertain each other and find a mate. It’s all very coy, but unlike many of the more remote love markets in the region, it has become very commercial in recent years, These days there are more camera-toting tourists than love-sick Montagnards. Since more and more tourists travel to Sapa for witnessing the love market, it’s not in session as it was once.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES
Trekking to local villages: It is quite easy to undertake day hikes through the valleys around Sapa without the assistance of a guide. However, for overnight stays in villages and longer treks into the mountains, it is advisable to hook up with a local guide. Where possible we suggest the use of minority guides, as this offers a means of making a living. There are endless options for trekking. Pick up a decent map and plot your course. The villages and the surrounding landscape are now part of Hoang Lien National Park . The nearest village within walking distance is Cat Cat, 3km south of Sapa. Like everywhere in this area, it’s a steep and very beautiful hike down; if you’re too exhausted or unfit to hike back up, there are plenty of “xe om” ready and willing to car you back to your hotel. Another popular hike is to Ta Phin village, home to Red Dzao and about 10km from Sapa. Most people take a xe om to a starting point about 8km from Sapa and then make a 14km loop through the area, passing through Black H’mong and Red Dzao villages.
There are also community-based tours to the nearby H’mongvillage of Sin Chai with an overnight in the village to learn about textiles or music and dance. Other popular communities to visit include the Giay village of TaVan and the Black H’mong village ofMatra .
Cat Cat Village
Sapa catcat vilages
Cat Cat Village is about 1 km from Sapa town. It’s located at the bottom of the Muong Hoa Valley and near the stunning Cat Cat Waterfall. This is an age-old village of H’Mong ethnic group remaining unique customs and practices that are lots in other villages.
To visit village, you walk through Sapa Market down the valley. Once you walk out of the crowd, you’ll be stunned by the nature’s beauty with high mountains of over 3000 m and the green rice terraces dropping nearly 1000 below. The sun shines across and there are H’Mong houses scattered in the valley
Visitors to Cat Cat have an opportunity to admire a lively and colorful picture. That is the image of young women sitting by looms with colorful pieces of brocade decorated with designs of flowers and birds. When these pieces of brocade are finished, they are dyed and embroidered with beautiful designs. A noteworthy is that H’Mong women use plants and leaves to dye these brocade fabrics. And then they roll a round and smooth section of wood covered with wax on fabrics to polish them, making their colors durable.
In addition to the brocade weaving craft, many residents in Cat Cat are good at manipulating gold and silver jewelry. Their products are fairly sophisticated, especially jewelry for women.
Tourists to Cat Cat are most attracted by its unique customs, including the custom of “pulling wife”. A man can ask his friends to lure a girl he likes to his house and keeps her there in three days. During these days, if the girl agrees to become his wife, a wedding will be held. However, the girl can happily go home after three days if she does not like him.
Traditional houses of H’Mong people in Cat Cat have three rooms with three doors and covered with po mu wood roof. In the house there are three columns that stand in round or square stones. The walls are made from sawn timber. The main door is always closed and only opens when people in the house organize important events. Altar, inlaid floor containing food, places for sleeping, kitchen and receiving guests are indispensable parts of the houses.
Visitors to Cat Cat Village can discover countless unique features of H’Mong people
Ta Phin Village
Ta Phin village of the H’Mong and Red Dao minority people, a remote village around 12 kilometers from Sapa which still retains traditional customs and lifestyles of ethnic minority groups. Something special awaits visitors at Ta Phin. The villagers will invite visitors to visit their homes to show how they live and what they have, and tell about their families. When heading off to Ta Phin village from Sapa, hiking up and down the 12 kilometers of hilly terrain is a good choice as travelers will see local people working in terraced paddy fields, or traveling back and forth from the market to their homes or tourist can stop to see an old French monastery. Especilly after a long day of walking on the windy roads and hills around Sapa town tourist can soak your bones and muscles in a traditional Red Dao herbal bath at Ta Phin.
Lao Chai to Ta Van
Sapa tavan vllages
Convenient to the town center, this popular day trip from Sapa is a good chance to traipse around the rice terraces and experience a bit of rural village life. Hire a car or motorbike for the 9km (5 1/2-mile) road down the valley from Sapa to the Hmong villageof Lao Chai (some folks even walk it); it’s a nice ride in itself, with great views of the lush terraces. From there, you’ll just follow the valley for a few miles to the next town of Tavan . Along the way, you’ll walk through terraced rice fields and among some picturesque villages, and experience a bit of rural life. (I even had the chance to help with some rice threshing — a process by which grains are separated from harvested stalks; you whack a handful of shoots, using a wooden holder, against a bin and loosen the grains onto a mat for collection.)
As you walk through different hilltribe villages (Hmong and Dao people), it’s helpful to have a guide to explain customs or practices to you and perhaps translate. You’re sure to see other tourists on the trail (which puts many people off), but this is a good example of the many great treks in the area. Wherever you go, you are greeted with a hearty “Bonjour, madam! Bonjour, monsieur!”
Ta Van is a small village set within a picturesque valley of Muong Hoa . A night stay here will give you a close-up experience of the life-style and culture typical of the area.
Ban Ho Village
Ban Ho Village can be seen from a favourable position in Sapa Town but the itinerary from Sapa to the village is much farther and there is another life there…
It takes about seven hours to walk from Sapa to the Ho Village. The village, of which the centre is Ban Den hamlet, is a meeting point of Muong Hoa and La Ve Springs. It has become an attractive destination for tourists, particularly adventurers.
Unlike the Muong Hoa Spring that brings water to tens of villages where it crosses, the La Ve Spring flows directly to the Ho Village from the high mountain. Perhaps, due to the reason, the La Ve Spring looks more beautiful, secret and transparent than the Muong Hoa.
It is tremendous to swim in the very cool stream flowing out of the rock mountain in the middle of the vast green colour of forests. Not only the La Ve Spring, has the nature given the Ho Village a series of waterfalls such as Ca Nhay (Fish Jumping) and Seo Trung Ho. The Seo Trung Ho Waterfall, over 100m high, looks like a white silk strip crossing halfway down the mountain.
Travelling to the Ho Village is not appropriate for those without ambitions of discovery or strong legs because it is really challenging to overcome kilometres of mountain and hill paths.
Ho villagers mainly belong to the Tay ethnic minority group, whose lifestyles are quite similar to the Kinh (Viet) people. However, they live in stilted houses.
The homestay tours have been attractions of the Ho Village. About 30 large and pretty stilt houses in the Ban Den hamlet are used to serve tourists, a lot of tourists stay overnight in the stilt houses where you have a chance to enjoy ethnic speciality dishes, fire dances and alcohol made of sticky rice or maize and will be waken up by wild birds to start a new discovery.
Surrounding Sapa are the Hoang LienMountains , nicknamed the Tonkinese Alps by the French. These mountains include Fansipan, which at 3143m isVietnam ‘s highest peak. The summit towers above Sapa, although it is often obscured by clouds and is occasionally dusted with snow. The peak is accessible all year to those in good shape and properly equipped, but don’t underestimate the chal-lenge. It is very wet, and can be perilously slippery and generally cold, so you must be prepared. Do not attempt an ascent if the weather is terrible in Sapa, as limited visibility on Fansipan could be treacherous. The summit of Fansipan is 19km from Sapa and can be reached only on foot. The terrain is rough and adverse weather is frequent. Despite the short distance, the round trip usually takes three days; some very fit and experienced hikers do it in two days, but this is rare. After the first morning you won’t see any villages: just the forest, striking mountain vistas and perhaps some local wildlife such as monkeys, mountain goats and birds. No ropes or technical climbing skills are needed, just endurance. There are no mountain huts or other facilities along the way (yet), so you need to be self-sufficient. This means taking a sleeping bag, waterproof lent, food, stove, raincoat or poncho, compass and other miscellaneous survival gear. Hiring a reputable guide is vital and, unless you arc a seriously experienced mountaineer, find ing porters who will carry your gear is also strongly recommended. Weather-wise the best time for making the ascent is from mid-October to mid-December, and again in March, when wildflowers are in bloom.
An aging stone edifice, this church of the early French missionaries still stands on the high end of Cau May and is a popular meeting point for locals. There are Masses held on Saturday night and throughout the day on Sunday.
Ham Rong Mountain (Jaw of Dragon)
Legend has it that in the distance past, all animals lived together in a chaotic environment. One day, Jade Emperor gave an order that every species of animal had to find for them an area to live. Having heard the order, they scrambled for a place to reside. The three brothers of dragon who were living in a large lake hurriedly ran to the east but could not find any place; they then ran to the west. The two older brothers ran fast and came to the destination first. The youngest brother ran slowly and strayed into the crowds of lions, tigers and big cats. Fearing that these animals would attack it, the dragon opened its mouth to defense itself. At that time, the order of Jade Emperor was no longer available, so the three dragons petrified. The two older dragons, which were waiting for their brother, face Lao Cai City, and the youngest one raising its head and opening mouth faces the Hoang Lien Mountain Range. So the mountain is named Ham Rong (Jaw of Dragon). It is just right in the center of Sapa Town. The mountain offers a panoramic view of Sapa and its surroundings including Fansipan – the Peak of Indochina. Accessing the mountain, you’ll go alongside the church from the town center to the end of the road and turn left for the asending path. There are steps which will guide you through the fresh orchid gardens and flower gardens to the top. There’s also an ethnic house on the mountain with ethnic music and performances played by the local girls and boys.
Visitors to Ham Rong have chances to climb up the San May (Cloud Yard) to enjoy the panorama of Sapa Townlet, visit the orchid gardens with beautiful and colorful flowers. In addition, Ham Rong Mountain has numerous caves and stones in extraordinary shapes.
Tram Ton Pass
The incredible road between Sapa and Lai Chau crosses the Tram Ton Pass on the northern side of Fansipan, 15km from Sapa. At 1900m this is the highest mountain pass in Vietnam. Even if you are not planning to carry on around the northwest, it is well worth coming up here to experience the incredible views from the top of this pass. Descend by mountain bike before returning by truck or rent a motorbike to make the short hop to the new Tam Duong (Binh Lu). This is a seriously spectacular ride. On the Sapa side of the mountain the weather is often cold. foggy and generally miserable. Drop down a few hundred metres below the pass on the Lai Chau side and it will often be sunny and warm. Ferocious winds come ripping over the pass, which is not surprising given the temperature differ ences – Sapa is the coldest place in Vietnam while Lai Chau is the warmest. Tram Ton Pass is the dividing line between two great weather fronts – who says you can’t see air? Alongside the road, about 5km towards Sapa is Thac Bac (Silver Waterfall). With a height of 100m, it’s a big one, and the loop track is steep and scenic.. Make sure the camera has enough memory for this route.
Sapa Ancient Rock Field
sapa ancient rock fields
Sapa Ancient Rock Field is between the terraced rice paddies of ethnic minority groups. This 8sq.km-area of remains consists of large multi-grade rocks engraved with ancient images. The first exploration research, in 1925, recorded that there were 200 stones of various dimensions concentrated in the area. Hon Bo, which is 15m long and 6m high, is the biggest of theses rocks.
The engravings on the surfaces of the stone are either pictographic or decorative. Remarkably, among the engravings are drawings of humans, stilt-houses of the ethnic minorities and symbols believed to be a primitive form of writing. But their meaning has not yet been deciphered.
In addition, impressive images include a da chong (the husband stone), da vo (the wife stone), as well as stones that look like tigers and a stela with an incantation written on it by the carver to help his people defeat the tigers. The da chong and da vo tell the story of faithful love between a couple who overcame all difficulties to be together; even though they turned to stone, they are still dedicated to each other.
Archaeologists have proven that this area has been inhabited since ancient times. These fascinating Viet remains have drawn the attention of scientists and tourists.
Hoang A Tuong Castle (Hoang Yen Chao Castle)
Hoang A tuong castle
Hoang A Tuong Castle is located in Na Hoi Tho Hamlet, Bac Ha District, 110km from Sapa. It is a unique construction work, which harmonizes the Oriental and Western architectural styles
The castle was built at the beginning of the 20th century (between 1914 and 1921). Its owner was Hoang Yen Chao of Tay origin. He was the father of Hoang A Tuong, a tribal mandarin under the domination of the French colonialists.
The castle covers an area of 4,000m² in which the main building occupies 420m². In front of its arched doors are earthen banks. Occupying a pivotal position overlooking the Bac Ha valley, the castle serves both as the residence of Hoang Yen Chao, then Hoang A Tuong and as a fortress. Its network of walls, bunkers, and battlements were reinforced by a mortar mixed with sugar molasses. In a distance, the white castle jutting out from the valley looks imposing and majestic.
At present, this castle is put under a restoration scheme to better help tourists get insight into the changes of the local life.