In the region around Sapa, there are quite a few markets on several different days of the week. On our previous trip, we had gone to the Bac Ha Sunday Market, which is perhaps the largest market in the area and as a result has become the most popular market for tourists. It was a long drive there over some pretty awful roads but it was worth the effort. But this time we wanted to go a market that was primarily oriented to the local population so we decided on the Muong Khuong Market, which is also held each Sunday.
The Muong Khuong Market is a large market about a 2-hour drive from Sapa. It is visited by shoppers and merchants of a wide range of ethnic groups; some of whom come over mountain trails across the nearby border with China to sell their products. We saw several Pa Zi women selling incense made from the bark and pitch of aromatic trees.
We arrived a little too late to see the livestock section but walking through the textile, produce and the meat sections of the market was a great treat. With all the different minority groups represented (Black, Flower & White Hmong ; Red & Black Zhou, Dao, Nung, Pa Zi and others) this is an extraordinarily colorful market.
We walked through the market a couple times and made a few small purchases of fabrics, some incense as well as some snacks including whole peeled (very small) pineapples for the equivalent of roughly 10 cents each but mostly just watched the people. We were pleased to see that our very good guide Cee was also shoping for red chiles and red chile sauce for her sister’s restaurant back in Sapa. She told us that the prices for the red chile was much better at this market than they could find in Sapa and she stocked up for them.
After we left the market, we stopped in at a local restaurant to grab some lunch and happened to be sitting next to a bus load of local tourists who were hitting the bottle pretty hard…but with a good attitude. They were playing a drinking game and downing shots of some clear liquor poured from recycled water bottles.
I can’t help but think that the ride down the mountain after lunch was quite a bit more enjoyable for us than the ride that group had in a large bus.