Bac Ha is located in the Lào Cai Province of northern Vietnam, near the border with China. If you love going “off the beaten path”, this is the perfect place for you to visit for 3 days and 2 nights.
Bac Ha is situated around 6 hours from Hanoi and 3 hours from Sapa. It’s characterised by its diverse ethnic communities, including the Flower Hmong, Phu La, Tay, Nung, and others. The Flower Hmong people are particularly recognised for their colourful traditional clothing.
Bac Ha is also surrounded by picturesque landscapes and terraced rice fields, making it a popular destination for trekking and exploring the local culture.
I visited Bac Ha in November 2023 and this is exactly the what I did. I don’t drive a motorcycle so relied on public transport and my legs!
Keep on reading to find out how you can visit Bac Ha for 3 days and NOT just a day trip to see the famous Sunday Market.
DAY 1 – Friday
This is your travel day. Plan to arrive in Bac Ha around midday (12pm). You can read my comprehensive post on How to get from Sapa to Bac Ha by public bus.
Check in to your accommodation. I recommend Bac Ha Boutique for cheap accommodation in a convenient spot in town. If you choose a double room with lake view, you’ll be able to watch people walking their Water Buffaloes to the Saturday market at night and early morning.
Once you’ve checked in and had some lunch, it’s time to explore!
Start walking around the lake on the street. Barely any road traffic so you’ll be fine.
First stop will be the famous Hoang A Tuong Palace. It’s a French colonial-style mansion built in the early 20th century. The palace, belonging to a local Hmong leader, showcases a blend of European and Asian architectural influences. You can explore the rooms and learn about the history of the region. There’s also a gift shop located on the grounds. It’s free to enter the Palace.
Next, walk through the backstreets to Bac Ha Temple (this is where the minibus from Lao Cai will drop you off and where you can get the minibus back to Lao Cai train station). It’s also free to enter.
Then you can wander through the local shops, chat to some people, buy souvenirs, buy some fruit for breakfast the next morning or go for a walk around the lake.
During sunset, walk to where the Water Buffalo market is located. You’ll be able to experience men bathing their Water Buffalo in the river and there will be some tied up waiting for the next day. When I visited, I was surrounded by nearly a dozen children. They all wanted to say hi and have a laugh. Please DO NOT take photos of any children you see in Bac Ha. They are not old enough to give consent.
You can have dinner at your hotel (Bac Ha Boutique). Try to get a seat outside near the road or inside near the window. You’ll be able to watch people walk past with their Water Buffaloes and Horses. It’s an incredible thing to witness.
At night, you’ll hear animals walking past the hotel, Water Buffalo grunting and Horses hooves trotting along.
DAY 2 – Saturday
Wake up early because this is the Water Buffalo Market day! Plan to leave the hotel around 7am. It’s only around the corner.
I’ve explained in great detail on this post, How to Visit the Saturday Water Buffalo Market. It has all the information you’ll need to experience it.
After the Water Buffalo Market, head back to the hotel for some lunch.
The afternoon is for trekking in Bac Ha! Well it’s technically walking on a road around to Ban Pho Village. This walk takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes and it’s a loop so you don’t need to backtrack.
During this walk you’ll see many local people living their day to day life. You’ll also see locals walking their Water Buffaloes and Horses back home! This was a surprise because suddenly you’ll turn a corner and then see a little old Hmong woman in traditional dress walking her giant Water Buffalo towards you! It was amazing!
After Dinner at the hotel, it’s time to go to the Bac Ha night market that is on every Saturday night. Now this is a wonderful thing to experience. You’ll see groups of young girls dancing along the streets. Traditional bamboo stick dancing. Lots of shops to buy food and souvenirs. Traditional singing. It’s a great vibe and I highly recommend it.
DAY 3 – Sunday
Today is Sunday Market Day! There’s a large post here I’ve written of the Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Sunday Bac Ha Market.
Another early morning. Plan to leave the hotel at 6am. This is the best time to really experience the market. By 6:30am it’s absolutely bustling.
The textile/clothing areas are set up by 7:30am, but the fruit/veg/spices are set up at 6am.
You can also go down to the area where the Water Buffalo Market was located and see where they sell live animals.
From 9am, this is when the busloads of tourists start to arrive. Now is the time to start packing your bag and getting out of there. It’s hectic when they arrive.
While you’re wandering around Bac Ha, you may come across sights of people killing animals. While walking around the lake I accidentally came across two women killing and dismembering a goat. I also walked past a man cutting the neck of a chicken in the village. Not to leave out the sights you’ll see at both the Saturday Water Buffalo Market and the live animals being sold at the Sunday Market.
You will most likely see animal cruelty and animal welfare issues. If you are very sensitive, or if you aren’t able to understand and accept that the world is different in other places, and some people don’t have access to the education about animal exploitation, please reconsider going here.