North Vietnam’s ethnic minority markets are a spectacular display of colour. We visited three of them, Muong Hum being the first, and perhaps most remote, one.
One of the most attractive things of Northern Vietnam are the many different ethnic minorities that populate the mountains here. Minorities that still proudly wear the full complement of their traditional dress – nothing like Xishuangbanna earlier, where we already got excited from seeing two or three women with a colourful headscarf. And there is no better way to observe this, no, to admire this, then visiting the local markets, of which there are many, on specific days, in the area around Sapa.
Many of the markets have, to a more or a lesser extent, been discovered by the tourists, but this has not compromised the authenticity of the markets. The people dress up in their Sunday best to go to the market, not to please the tourist, so much is clear. What it has done, is to add another business to the market, that of selling tourist trinkets. From big tables in proper stalls, this time, not out of a basket.
We had the opportunity to visit three markets, but I could have spent an extra week here, I love those. And I could have spent hours more on each of them. I took hundreds of photos, of which I will only be able to show a few here – still too many, but alas.
The smallest, least-discovered market we visited was the Sunday market of Muong Hum, some 40 km north of Sapa, where we and an American couple were the only foreigners amongst an incredibly colourful spectacle of Black Hmong and Red Dao, and no doubt some other minorities, who shopped around mostly for cloth and hardware items, not so much fresh produce – although the butchers did good business. And so did the local catering, with many of the simple restaurants in the back selling bowls of noodles additionally filled with lots of things I didn’t recognise (more photos here).