POST 5 – 30 DAYS IN VIETNAM
We intended arriving in Bac Ha Market in the far north-west of Vietnam on Saturday night direct from Hanoi, but logistics meant we ended up doing a day trip from Sapa. We purchased a budget mini bus tour (approx $14 AUD) from the Green Valley Hostel and were up and had finished breakfast in time for our 7.30 a.m. pick-up. One good thing about being the furthest hostel out of Sapa is being collected first, enabling first choice of seats to avoid travel sickness.
An hour down the hill and our group of 16 grew to 18 when we picked up a Belgian couple at Lao Cai. The mini bus seemed to be affiliated with a particular restaurant near the train station square, and we could use their restrooms if required. The Belgian couple who were transiting had to reluctantly leave their bulky luggage at this restaurant, as the bus driver did not want them to bring it with them. This sort of thing happens often throughout Vietnam, but we never heard any stories of left luggage being tampered with or stolen.
The outfits of the Flower Hmong women added to the other worldly vibe of the town. Flower Hmong women’s clothing is bright and cheerful, with multiple layers and big collars, the close ribbed embroidery creating thickness and warmth.
Walking through the market we came across the eating area where locals caught up on news over a meal.
In an inspired moment I had purchased a shoulder bag for a dollar at the entrance to the market on arrival, which saved me from the multitude of sellers of the exact same article throughout the market. All I had to do was show the bag and the women laughed good naturedly and left me alone.
Bac Ha is a quiet town that springs to life for the market every Sunday. You can forget about the hard sell of the Black Hmong in Sapa, the atmosphere is relaxed in Bac Ha.
If you arrive on Saturday, you can book into the Congfu hotel and ask for a room with a view of the market to get a bird’s eye view of early morning comings and goings as the market springs to life. As well you will beat the day trippers from Sapa on Sunday morning.
After lunch we regretfully piled back into the bus and headed off to a nearby village where we walked through the rice paddies and were invited to look inside a village home.
The home was one big spacious room. There were three children in the family and just the one family bed. The kitchen was situated in the far corner near two doorways and away from the sleeping area.
In our month in Vietnam we went to many markets but this was my favourite.