Located in the beautiful hills of northern Vietnam, Bac Ha Market stands as a vibrant tapestry of colours, cultures and traditions.
This bustling market situated in the Lào Cai Province is only 6 hours from Hanoi and less than 3 hours from Sapa. It’s a great “off the beaten path” experience. Here is An Adventurous 3 Day Itinerary for Bac Ha.
Local ethnic groups such as the Flower Hmong, Black Dao, Tay, and Nung from the local villages surrounding Bac Ha, come to this market to socialise, sell and buy food, clothing and household items.
Bac Ha Market is one of the largest and most colourful markets in Northern Vietnam and has been operating for many decades.
From the vividly embroidered textiles to the sounds of traditional music, Bac Ha Market offers a unique glimpse into the rich tapestry of Vietnamese life and is a treasure of ethnic diversity.
I visited this market in November 2023 so this information is up to date. Keep on reading to find out more!
WHEN IS IT ON?
The Bac Ha Market is on every Sunday from 6am. From 9:30am is when the bus loads of tourists arrive. On Saturday night there is the Bac Ha night market and that is really fun to attend.
WHEN SHOULD I VISIT?
You should visit the Bac Ha Market early. I recommend staying 2 nights in Bac Ha. Friday and Saturday night. Then when it gets closer to 10am on Sunday you can get out of there because it becomes so hectic with all the tourists. If you’re there early morning you can experience the REAL market. I DO NOT recommend going here for a day trip.
HOW TO GET THERE?
If you’re travelling from Sapa or Lao Cai Train Station, I’ve written up a comprehensive post about how to do it yourself using public buses. It’s really easy to do. And cheap!
HOW IS THE MARKET SET UP? WHERE IS EVERYTHING?
See the map below. This is where things are located. You can avoid the animal market by not walking down to that part.
DO THEY SELL LIVE ANIMALS HERE?
Yes. At the Bac Ha Market on Sunday they sell dogs, pigs, roosters, chickens and rabbits. They are located a few minutes walk away from the market, down near the bridge. In Northern Vietnam they do eat dogs and cats, so most of the animals here are sold for consumption.
They used to sell Water Buffalo on Sundays at the market but that is now moved to Saturday mornings. You won’t see Water Buffalo here on Sundays. Read this post on How to Visit the Saturday Water Buffalo Market in Bac Ha
WHAT CAN I SEE AT THE MARKET?
You will see lots of different fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices being sold. Some you’ve likely never seen before. Near the main square are food stalls where you can buy lunch.
(As a vegan tourist, I would recommend walking to Bac Ha Boutique to get some food as they have a restaurant and can easily make something for you with no egg/no dairy. Even if you aren’t vegan, I recommend eating here because the quality and cleanliness is excellent).
There are also clothing stores where you’ll see local people buying their traditional clothes.
Near the main road there is a fresh meat section where they are chopping up pieces of animals on wooden counters and a fish area where they chopping up fish.
Please DO NOT take portrait photos of people without their consent.
DO NOT take photos of children.
As the busloads of tourists started arriving, I saw some really awful things.
I had to tell off a white middle aged man not to take photos of a 3 year old boy with no top on sitting on his doorstep. Children cannot give consent.
I was in the market and asked a lady in traditional dress if I could take her photo by showing my phone and she smiled and shook her head and I respected her decision and put my hand on my heart and nodded and moved on.
The next minute I saw a white tourist stick his DSLR camera in her face and take a photo. I was horrified. This poor women just wants to sell her vegetables to raise money for her family and she has to put up with behaviour like this. I saw this many times once the busloads arrived and that’s when I decided to get out of there by 10am.
When I was at the Water Buffalo Market on Saturday, it was completely different. There was less than 10 tourists and I didn’t see anyone being this rude with their camera.
A lot of people go to Bac Ha Market to take photos of the women dressed in their traditional clothing. Please be mindful and don’t focus on doing this as your primary reason. Visit the market and be in the moment. Talk to people. Look at the large array of fruit and vegetables. Experience a unique atmosphere that you don’t see every day. Please tread carefully and respectfully on this planet and be mindful of your impact.