Saturday, 17 December 2011

the Market in Sapa

Soon after we arrived in Sapa, our guide offered to show us around the local market. I always enjoy visiting any market in any country of the world and this one was no exception.  Though to be honest there were a few 'sights' that did my head in ... and I thought at one point John might head back to Hanoi, but we survived and I actually did enjoy most aspects of visiting the local market as you will see by some of the images below.

The market in Sapa is located at the center of the town and and is open every day. But quite crowded on Saturday late afternoon and evening.
John with the two ladies (Mei and Cor) from the H'mong Minority Tribe 
and Huang, our guide for the Sapa Tour.

Until the late 1980s, when the population of the region was small and transportation was very poor, It was difficult to communicate among the outlying villages, the market offered probably the only chances once a week for H’mong and Red Zao peoples to meet others. 

The main market took place on Sunday but many went to the market on the Saturday  afternoon, mainly because the villages were quite some distance. Of course there were no accommodation, so to pass the night they gathered around the fire's talking, playing their traditional music, dancing…

Gradually these activities attracted the youngsters from villages near by to come and turned the market into a dating place for lovers. These days due to the development in the region and making it easier for locals to communicate among villages, as a result, the market in Sapa has been becoming less important spiritually. However, it is still crowded every weekend and worthwhile to spend few hours wandering around - just for the experience.

 each time I see the above image, I think of the "Chicken Dance"!

 there were plenty of stalls selling fresh vegetables and fruit ...


If you are intending to go trekking around Sapa, the ladies from the minority groups will surely follow you. Most are hoping that you will buy some small trinket or souvenir. You might find about 5 or 6 following you around the town. They do understand the word NO if said politely. Do not say 'later' as they will take that literally.
These people are delightful and you can learn much from them as you are trekking.

You might find that only one or two will stay with you past the edge of town, knowing the guide that is with you, they will know that you are trekking for the next few hours too ... do not disregard them... treat them with the respect they deserve.

These ladies will be of enormous help over the next few hours.

The two ladies that came with us were from the H'mong Minority Group, their names were MEI (May) and COR (Kerr) .... these two ladies were amazing, they were always there to hold our hand, guide us over a muddy patch, show us different things along the way etc and we even managed to visit the family home...

They had asked if we would buy something from them and we had said no. 

Prior to our trip, we heard that people buy things to take to the villages or families, things like pencils or candy bars etc. Some people just give money.

We felt we would rather give something else, so while at the market we filled our day pack with bananas, mandarins and apples .... we shared these with both ladies at the end of the day saying that the fruit was for the children. They certainly appreciated the fruit and thanked us profusely.

The guide later told us, that in all the years he has been taking people trekking into the mountains, no one has ever bought fruit for the families ..... you may like to also consider doing this if you intend to be doing any trekking out of Sapa.

We did buy a few things off them at the end of the day as well. But more about that later.
 If your guide offers to take you to the market, do so .... it is really a 'local shopping experience' that you won't get back in your home town!

Interesting to note that before the French built Sapa town into a town, the market place was on the sandy ground about 7 km east of the town, at the junction of the main road to Lao Cai and the trail to Ta Phin Village. 
* * * * * * * * *
PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS - on our visit to Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa
The Man in SEAT 61 (website on train travel)
HANOI KIDS- volunteer tour guides - hotel can organise if you book well ahead.
KOTO Restaurant  - hotel can book a table for you.

This is just one of the many blog posts of our visit to Hanoi and beyond. 

So stay tuned for more updates!!
(especially our trekking outside of Sapa)

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