The vibrant traditional costumes of the Flower Hmong dominate the vibrant open-air market at Can Cau. Everywhere you look, women in electric-colored skirts and sashes sashay between market stalls, sharing gossip and bartering for local wares. The market materializes along a hill on the northern outskirts of Bac Ha each Saturday morning, commanding large crowds to its produce, food, handicraft and livestock stalls—don’t be surprised to see buffalo and even dogs for sale toward the bottom of the valley.
Set to a backdrop of agricultural terraces, and tree covered mountains and villages, the Can Cau market is a more scenic—and arguably less touristy—alternative to the similar but larger Sunday market within Bac Ha; some of the more eager vendors sell both days. Just five and a half miles to the border with China, market vendors and patrons also include a fair number of Chinese as well as other area ethnic minorities including Blue Hmong in patterned clothing of their namesake color. Bring your bartering skills for bags, scarves, clothes, handicrafts and more.
Can Cau Market is held 12 miles north of Bac Ha each Saturday morning and runs until the early afternoon (around 1:30 or 2 p.m.). Tours leave Bac Ha in the early morning and often include a short trek to a nearby Phu La ethnic village—or sometimes run two days with overnight homestay starting on Fridays. It’s also possible to reach Can Cau Market via day trips from Sapa—it’s an almost three-hour ride over windy mountain road, so be sure to grab a window seat to soak in the stunning scenery.