Sapa’s Markets: A Daily Marvel

Nearly every day of the week, there is a new market popping up somewhere in the Sapa region. These markets act as not only a place for commerce and trade, but also as a social setting where various hill tribes gather to meet up. Many of the hill tribe people live mostly isolated lives, so these markets provide the opportunity to chat, socialize, eat, drink and more. While they are on constant rotation, generally the markets observe the following schedule:

Tuesday-Thursday

The first market of the week starts on Tuesday, and is usually held in Coc Ly (the market being Coc Ly Market). Among the hill tribes that gather here are the Flower H’Mong, Tay, Nung and Black Dao minorities. A range of goods are on sale here, but generally include livestock, vegetables, local textiles and other regional specialties. An interesting way to view and access this market is via the Chay River, which connects to the nearby Tay minority village (on foot).

The next market is on Wednesday, and is held in the Muong Khuong District’s Cao Son hamlet. While this market starts off early in the morning, the beautiful scenery and unique items for sale make the journey out well worth it. For those seeking a more remote market on Wednesday, the Sin Cheng Market is a fantastic, yet difficult to reach option. For those who don’t mind the rough road out, this H’mong, Black Dao, Tay and Giay minority market is very rewarding.

Thursday’s market is famous for being the region’s highest market. Sitting at 1,900 meters above sea level (accessed via the Tram Ton Pass), this small village market (located in the village of Lung Khau Nhin) is truly extraordinary. From the the Lu people to the H’mong, this popular market is always thriving with color, activity and welcoming locals. Alternatively, the Tam Duong Dat market is another Thursday option, which is also accessed via the Tram Ton Pass.

Saturday-Sunday

There are two different Saturday markets that are worth visiting. The first is held during the day in Can Cau, where Black Dao, Tay and Flower H’Mong gather to buy and sell a vast range of items. The colors of the market are extraordinary and the traditional is ever present. The second market on Saturday is held in the evening, and is known as the “Love Market.” A famous market in Sapa, the (former) purpose of this market (not really observed any more) was for young men and women of outlying villages to come in and search for their future partner. Despite the love being no longer, the market still makes for a unique and cultural visit for anyone, with the Red and Black Dao performing beautiful songs.

Sunday’s market choice is the most famous in the region with the Bac Ha Market- located around 3 hours outside of Sapa town. This grand market is a colossal gathering of ethnic groups from all around the region, coming in to sell produce, textiles, handicrafts, traditional medicine and much, much more. The most notable visitors to this market are the large numbers of Flower H’mong, whose traditional attire really stands out in the crowds. If there is one market that simply must be experienced, this is a great option.