Bac Ha rural district of Vietnam is located in the northern highlands. Bordering China, the highlands are inhabited by ethnic tribes. One of the ethnic minorities is the Flower H’mong. They are Mongs – of mongoloid race, thought to have migrated from China. H’mong live in southern China, northern Vietnam, and Laos among others.
The H’mong have two distinct identities. The Red Hmong living in and around Bac Ha, and the Black Hmong around SaPa (in Ta van village where I stayed a few days). The Hmong dress in their own stitched clothes. Both Black and Red tribes have their distinct dress style. The Reds are more flashy and vibrant.
The Sunday Market
Every Sunday there is a market organized for the rural people who sell almost all the commodities. From vegetables to meat, from soup bowls to farm tools and storage bins, from dog pups to buffaloes. From tobacco to sugarcane to traditional medicinal products, all find a place. Tobacco pipes are another attraction as is dresses, décor and finery. The market is a fair like event with more women visible around both a sellers and buyers of things.
How to Go
A car (taxi) from SaPa (115 km) takes about 2.5 hrs to reach. I paid VND 2,000,000 (about 85 USD) for two-way journey, through picturesque landscape in mountains. We plied two different routes to and from Bac Ha. After crossing Lao Cai we took AH14 and returned via QL 70 (AH and QL being the highway classifications). I spent about 4 hrs in and around the market, photographing and relishing some local delicacies before visiting the Royal Palace of the erstwhile ruler of Bac Ha. It is a beautiful and quite mansion at the eastern end of the lake.
|Agriculture tools and storage bins on sale|
|Buffaloes on sale|
|Whiling away till a buyer comes|
Vietnamese dogs are quite feroceous.
|The lady selling traditional medicine ingredients|
|That's how they light the pipe. Tobacco is placed|
on the small nozzle and a lighter does the job.
The Hmong have a peculiar custom called ‘wife stealing’. A H’mong man when in love with a woman will abduct her and hold her captive for three days. If she agrees to marry him he will approach her parents seeking her hand in marriage. Incidentally, this custom is also prevalent in many Indian momadic tribes. Seems it is customary in highlands to elope and / or abduct.
|With such beauties around who wouldn't dare an abduction?|
These Black H'mongs are in Ta Van village where I had a home stay.