Bac Ha Market
From Sapa I did a daytrip to the Bac Ha markets, which is about 3 hours away. If you're looking at a map then locate Lao Cai (close to the Chinese border and where the train line ends from Hanoi), and Bac Ha is located east of there. This is the largest market in the region and occurs every Sunday. There are markets in various towns in the highlands almost every day of the week where you can see different ethnic tribes doing their weekly shopping, so you need to make sure you have the right day for the right town if you're planning a market tour of the area. I wasn't sure about going to Bac Ha as it's pretty touristy now, particular when the day trippers (me!) arrive from Sapa around 10.30am. I had originally intended to be in Bac Ha the night before so I could be at the market ahead of the crowds, but I changed my mind in the end as I was enjoying the atmosphere of Sapa and wanted to stay one more night there.
*** All images taken with Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 lens ***
While in Sapa I'd met the Black H'Mong and Red Dzao people, and Bac Has is populated predominantly with Flower H'Mong people. They've been named this because of their brightly coloured clothing. This 'naming the obvious' approach reminds me a bit of Australia where we have Small Creek, Big Creek, Scrubby Creek, Blue Mountains, and so on. No room for confusion I guess!
My experience with the hill tribe people in general was that unless they were directly trying to sell you something (women only) then you were ignored. I could walk straight by people in the middle of a remote rice paddy and they wouldn't even make eye-contact, let alone say hello. Only a handful of children called out hello the entire time I was there...and this is really unusual. I'm really not sure if it was shyness, tiredness (of foreigners), or indifference. On the flip side it was nice that the children weren't yelling out 'hello...money' or 'hello...lollies' like in some other countries.
At the Bac Ha markets they all went about their weekly business and ignored the fact that there was an influx of camera-wielding tourists in their midst. Only the women selling their embroidered bits and bobs aimed directly at us were interacting. It was really strange for me as I usually try to engage with my subjects on some level, but I couldn't penetrate this tough crowd. In the end I treated it like a documentary shoot and pushed aside my unease of shooting without asking for permission.
I was only there for about 1.5 hours so it was a bit of quick shooting. I prefer to take a bit more time to find my shots, but I was a mass tourist that day unfortunately. I spent the most time at the buffalo sale...but will save this for the next post. In the meantime I'd like to share this slideshow of the markets with you:
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