Sunday, 17 March 2013

Can Cau Market, northern Vietnam

Shoppers on their way back from the market
One of the main attractions of visiting Sapa and the surrounding area was to go to one or more of the markets held weekly by and for the minority people of the region.  Once in Sapa, we were advised by the local tourist office to visit the Saturday market at Can Cau, rather than the more touristy Sunday market at Bac Ha.  So, we did as we were told and booked a car and driver to take us there!

We were up very early on the morning in question and were downstairs in the hotel lobby by 7am to meet our guide.  He turned up 15 minutes late to tell us that the driver was stuck in traffic and wouldn't get to us until 8.  It didn't bode well!!  However, the driver did turn up eventually and we retraced the road we had taken on arrival in Sapa.  On that occasion, we couldn't see anything because it was dark and now we couldn't see anything because it was thick fog!  Back in Lao Cai, we stopped for tea and a toilet break.  We told our guide that we didn't need either so early into our day's excursion, but he explained that we needed to change car because our driver's grandfather had just died and he had to go home!  After a further delay, a different car and driver arrived and we were able, at last, to begin the 90km drive to Can Cau.  By this time, we were very worried about missing the market because a guy at our hotel (who we had chosen not to book the tour with!) had told us that it would all be over by 10am.  It was already 9.15!!

Water buffalo for sale
As we progressed on our journey, the weather improved and soon we were enjoying the warmth of the sun through the car windows and the spectacular scenery on both sides of the road.  We were delayed again due to a crashed lorry which blocked our path, but eventually we reached Bac Ha.  Beyond the town, the road conditions deteriorated to the point that there was no road in some places!  It made for quite a hair-raising end to our journey.

As we neared our destination, we passed lots of local people in national dress, both going to and returning from the market, so we were reassured that we were not too late and so it proved.  Having parked the car, we walked up a stony track to the market and lost ourselves for the next couple of hours in a riot of colour, noise and commerce!

Flower Hmong ladies
Can Cau is definitely a local market with livestock, foodstuffs and masses of colourful fabrics and clothes for the Flower Hmong women to enhance their already elaborate outfits.  People cross the border from China to trade at Can Cau, something which is difficult to police in this hilly border region.  It makes for an ethnically diverse experience for the few tourists who make it there and I would certainly recommend it in preference to the more well-known Bac Ha market.

During our visit, we were blessed with the best weather we had in our two-week Christmas holiday.  We didn't buy anything, but we did take loads of photos - you can see more of them here.



  1. Hey, how much did you pay for getting there?

    1. Hi - I honestly can't remember, but I know we thought it was good value at the time - we never pay a lot for trips!!