Bac Ha, Vietnam is one of those places that got pegged for one thing, and visitors tend to overlook anything else. Most famous for it’s colorful and lively Sunday Market. It’s a shame most travelers only plan to visit Bac Ha during market time.
The little town has much more to offer, and travelers should schedule in at least three days and two nights to explore the area. The local’s hospitality and the views are well worth your time. Plan on arriving on Friday or Saturday to attend the Bac Ha Sunday Market early. Busloads of tourists come from other cities after about 9:00-9:30 am and change the dynamic of the experience.
Bac Ha Sunday Market
Bac Ha’s pride and joy for a good reason. This large, energetic and vibrant market is not like any other Asian market available. The merchants come from villages all around Northern Vietnam to sell their goods or livestock. The most notable groups are Black Dao, Tay, Nung, LaChi, Phu La with Flower Hmongs being the most recognizable because of their traditional multi-colored attire. The clothing and friendly faces lend for an endless stream of photo opportunities.
Don’t get too caught up in just taking pictures. Make sure to stop and talk with some vendors, bargain for souvenirs, eat some delicious food and walk the entire market including the animal and used items sections.
We arrived at 7:00 am and stayed until about noon. The best time was before 9:00 am because we were able to chat with some sellers, ask for photos, move about freely and eat some freshly cooked goods. Between 9:00 and noon the market got quite crowded. We walked around and spent a good amount of time sitting on the main steps people watching. We could have probably sat around longer, but it was time to eat a full meal.
Village Trek with Za
To date, this is one of our favorite half day experiences ever! We met Za through our hotel, Ngan Nga, and quickly set up a half day tour with her to trek the mountains, visit her farm & home, & learn more about Bac Ha and the surrounding villages.
She met us at our hotel, and we walked to her village to see several rice fields, vegetable farms, and take in the views from the mountainside. We stopped at her home to meet some of her family who had prepared a bountiful lunch for us. Our particular tour ended up being around 17kms because none of us had anywhere to be later in the day, and we just kept walking and talking.
Za has a handful of different tours available, and she is also open to customizing the tour to your request. Her English is terrific, and she does a great job answering questions. She is very inquisitive, but the best part is she instantly makes you feel at ease with her. We felt as if we were hanging out with a friend we had known for years.
Rent a Scooter and Explore
We are huge advocates for scooter rentals in SE Asia. There is no better place to rent a bike then Bac Ha, because it is not very busy and the roads are long, windy, and the views are lovely. There were a handful of locations to rent scooters. All were the same price, so we recommend asking your hotel if they work with a particular shopkeeper. We paid around $5 USD for a full day rental.
One you’ve gotten set up with your scooter then head for the hills. I recommend getting out to explore the countryside first then on the way back into town do some additional exploring. We headed toward Ban Pho, which is North East of Bac Ha. We stopped at a little waterfall near the road and found some random hiking trails. There was no plan we just followed the road and the scenery and weren’t disappointed with anything we saw.
The Tuesday or Wednesday Market to experience a real local market
If you can find yourself in Bac Ha on a Tuesday or Wednesday, they have a local market in full swing on each day. These markets are less touristy and entirely geared toward locals instead of tourists. They are smaller and provide a more real vision of daily life in Bac Ha. Ask your hotel for the current weekly location.
Trekking and Homestay
A 2-day trek with an overnight homestay is an excellent way to explore and get to know the area. We did not take one of these tours but wish we had. The mountains around Bac Ha are so beautiful we regret not spending more time trekking.
3.5 out of 5 Travelationship High Fives. For the traveler who likes – adventure, romance, relaxation, partier, historical, bucket lister, trekking, outdoors, farming, scootering, markets, culture