Explore / Southeast Asia

Travel Inspiration: Bắc Hà Sunday Market in the Northern Highlands of Vietnam

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One of my most highly recommended travel experiences is to visit a local market. So of course, when I went to the Northern highlands of Vietnam, I took my own advice. At the Bắc Hà, Sunday Market, located in a rural district of Lào Cai Province in the Northeast region of Vietnam, the smells of humanity, roasting mystery stew, moped exhaust, and dust combine heavily in the air. All the villagers have come to sell, buy, eat, and—most importantly—socialize. The women wear the most astoundingly beautiful dresses, hand embroidered in bright pinks, oranges, blues, and reds, depending on the Hmong tribe they belong to. It takes three to five months to embroider one dress by hand. The honking of horns and the crush of the crowd make it difficult to barter, so after purchasing four handkerchiefs in the most surprising array of neon plaid, I resort to people watching instead.

There is something so humanizing about seeing people in their most mundane element—at the grocery store. There is a sense of intimacy when you are witnessing someone bargaining for supper. In this case, pig head. Or buying tools. Handkerchiefs. Brooms. Herbs. There is courting happening, grannies chatting, mommies wearing babies while they exclaim over tablecloths, and daddies smoking and telling jokes. You can tell that this is the way it has been done here for a thousand years—except without the mopeds and plastic, of course. I am sad that I don’t speak the language so that I can find out about Bao’s plentiful crop this year or how Cam is doing in school or the best way to cook tender liver. I am also sad when we have to leave the bustle behind and catch the bus to travel on to our next destination…

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Thank you for stopping by! Stay tuned for more Vietnam adventures and travel tips!

5 thoughts on “Travel Inspiration: Bắc Hà Sunday Market in the Northern Highlands of Vietnam

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