The villages of northern Vietnam are inhabited by hill tribespeople who are incredibly proud and strong and underprivileged. One of the best places to visit in Vietnam and to see the Hmong is at the Bac Ha market.
In the main northern town of Sa Pa Vietnam you see many of the elegant Black Hmong tribe in their panelled indigo tunics with high collars and leggings. You’ll also see the striking red headdresses of the Dao and Tay. But Bac Ha market is the place to see the flamboyantly-attired Flower Hmong going about their daily business.
We got into a little van and travelled three hours from Sa Pa in northern Vietnam on windy bumpy roads to visit a Saturday market at Bac Ha village. We drove through spectacular scenes of hillsides where the rice terraces climb to the sky, including the amazing Fansipan mountain.
The populace of the surrounding country gather here, often trekking many miles carrying produce and livestock. Though we are taller than everyone in the market, we are overwhelmed by the chaotic whirlpool of colours created by the Hmong clothes.
Strange indistinct sounds swirl around you, for the most part oblivious to your ineffective and bewildered turnings. Everything at the Hmong market is ablaze with clashing colours.
The colourful costumes of Vietnam’s Flower Hmong tribespeople dance before your eyes. The women wear parti-coloured tartan turbans, thickly embroidered bodices and full skirts in bright primary colours. A water buffalo bellows his disapproval, a suckling pig makes a squealing break for freedom.
There are fighting chickens, whining puppies, and the acrid smell of tobacco and opium rises in the air. The ears are assailed on every side by the haggling of woman traders. All this blends into a single cacophonous din as you can hear in this video:
By Natasha von Geldern
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