Rainbow women

We’re carrying on with our fascinating snoop around Bac Ha market in Sapa, North Vietnam.

Some of the sights make uncomfortable viewing for more western eyes including huge vats of horse stew – a delicacy here.

As a life long vegetarian I am fair happier, and in my element, in the colourful fresh produce section of this sprawling market.

It’s also the ideal place to watch / stalk more of the wonderfully attired local hill tribe ladies.

I think the rows of rainbow bright women above belong to the Flower H’mong tribe. Famed for their colourful clothing, a mix of traditional and modern man-made fabrics.

Another typical sight is the traditional conical hat – not just a sterotype but a very real, very commonly worn article in Vietnam.

The iconic headwear, known as non la, are handmade from bamboo and palm leaves and protect farmers from the scorching heat that can reach over 40c.

Sugar cane, rambutan and a whole host of delicious, colourful delicacies can be found heaped high in every corner.

But it’s not just edibles that you can buy – oh no – anything from brooms, saucepans and wellies to house bricks, cattle and even, sadly, cats and dogs for eating.

Or, if you’re one of the elder gentlemen, you can literally drink yourself into a stupor with this homebrew!

Just decant it from the large plastic jugs into your own container and weave your way home!

Colourful chaos

Carrying on with our exploration of the incredible Bac Ha market, we’ve taken a break for a refreshing beverage.

Coconut juice is just one of the many flavoursome drinks on offer, but caffine addict hubby is fixated on the strong local coffee!

We’re heading deeper into the market now and the vendors get closer together, the piles of fresh produce pile higher and we can really start to see some of the local characters.

We are also seeing more of the amazing traditional outfits of the many hill tribes who come to Bac Ha to trade, haggle and also meet potential marriage prospects.

These elaborately attired women come from miles around, often on motorbikes landed with veg, fruit and live stock.

One of the most colourful tribes is the Flower Hmong. Their cultural dress is a mix of traditional craftsmanship with modern materials.

Costumes cover women and children in a rainbows of colours from head to toe using heavy pin stripe appliqué, hand embroidery and beaded fringe work.

Other Vietnamese hill tribes include the Black H’mong who are skillful at using indigo dye to create their traditional dress, the red Dao and the Dzay.

Lots more colourful snaps from this incredible market to come. 🙂

Various vegetables

Moving swiftly away from the grisly meat end of the market, I’m back on more palatable ground in the colourful vegetable section of Bac Ha market.

Mountains of jewel bright carrots, onions, courgettes and bitter gourds tumble to the ground wherever you look.

Tiny, scorching chillies, quail eggs and all the fresh herbs you could possibly want or need.

Purple aubergines are cheek by jowl against ruby red tomatoes, zesty limes and bunches of spring onions.

It doesn’t get any fresher than this and watching the nimble bartering between the stall holders and the hordes of shoppers is a sport in itself.

Lots more colourful snaps to come from this frenetic and fantastic market.

Bustling Bac Ha

Bac Ha is one of the most colorful ethnic markets of all Northwest Vietnam.

It is a fusion of the many different hill tribes that inhabit the Bac Ha mountain district and here you can easily distinguish them by their different colourful traditional clothing.

I was in seventh heaven surrounded by the colourful typical traditional costumes of local tribes including the Tay, the Dzay, the Red Dzao and the Black H’mong.

The market is set out in distinct areas, one for handicrafts, art and fabric, others for fresh vegetables, others for meat and fish.

Let’s take a wander to the visceral end of the market first shall we . . .

A stall holder singes the hairs off a leg of pork, she’s wielding that blow torch like a seasoned pro!

Whether it crawls, gallops, squirms or swims, it is probably to be found in this section of the market.

You don’t want to mess with this tiny but fierce lady!

As a lifelong vegetarian, I am always appalled, yet also strangely intrigued, by the bloodier aspects of other culture’s cuisine.

In the UK people have a very sanitised approach to the meat on their plate, they rarely see it butchered or make the connection between the live animal and the tasty end product.

Here however it is unavoidable, grisly and rather stomach turning!

Rocking, rolling, riding

Leaving Hanoi behind again for now we’re heading on another adventure.

This time to a place I’ve wanted to see for over a decade, ever since I came back from South Vietnam, I have been obsessed with the incredible scenery of the rice terraces of Sapa.

So we’re heading further North, aboard the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai.

We planned the trip, once again, through Vega Travel and it all went fairly to plan (except for the poor girl forgetting to pick up the train tickets and having to hightail it back to the office on her moped to grab them!)

We’re bunked up in a cosy little cabin of four people, meaning we’ll be sharing with some total random strangers! But it is quite comfortable.

However don’t expect to sleep much as the train is nosy and clanks and bangs all through the night! (and use the toilet as early as you can as it becomes rather ‘ripe’ later on . . )

The whole journey takes around eight hours and arrives at Lao Cai at 6am!

From there we’re whisked off on a private tour of Bac Ha market, a traditional local hill tribe market and one of the true highlights of our trip.

Here’s a little taster to whet your appetite!