Photographer's Note

Bac Ha - Market for early risers

Dedicated to all early risers among the TE-members.

I’m not a morning person. Have never been one. Will never become one.
But necessity knows no law. In Bac Ha it’s very important to wake up early.

Bac Ha is located in the province Lào Cai, in the mountainous northwest region of Vietnam bordering the province of Yunnan in China.
This small town is famous for its Sunday market which starts at about 6 am and lasts until 1 pm.
Many local hill-tribe people come to this market both to sell and to buy. Among them the beautifully attired Flower Hmong.

In the mountainous northwest of Vietnam there are more markets where you can meet hill-tribe people. However, some of these markets can only be visited by private transport.
The small town of Bac Ha on the other hand can be reached by direct bus from the very touristy Sapa. Also from the town of Lào Cai and (with a transfer) from the slightly larger town of Ha Giang.

Someone in Belgium who had been there before advised me strongly to go already on Saturday, to stay in Bac Ha for the night and to visit the market early in the morning. This because many day trippers come there by bus from Sapa and from other places and their busses arrive around 9.30 to 10 am. From that time the market becomes a tourist afair.

That seemed to me very good advice. There are several smaller budget hotels in Bac Ha. So I booked one of them and left on Saturday afternoon.
Great was my surprise on arriving in Bac Ha to see already so many western tourists in the streets. Everyone was apparently given the same advice. It is furthermore also mentioned in Lonely Planet …

On Sunday morning at 6 am and before having breakfast I went to the market. It was really not that bad.
A Dutch couple I had met before and I were the only westerners.
Apparently, many tourists decided to stay in Bac Ha on Saturday night but only went to the market after 8 o'clock.

The market place in Bac Ha is quite large and covers a plurality of streets, squares and covered spaces.
The three of us had good opportunities for photographing with only local people in sight.

That changed during the course of the morning and once the tourist buses from other places had arrived, it became a real tourist spot. Frankly, it was just a zoo where people go to look at other people.
Also here, I left with mixed feelings. I had taken the pictures I had dreamed of but the way things changed during the morning gave me a dissatisfaction …

So what can I advise ? To visit remote markets where you can only come with a rented motorbike ?
But you must know that there’s often no insurance when renting a motorbike and Vietnam has a lot of traffic accidents.
During the 9 days of the Tet holiday in 2015 there were 536 traffic accidents with 317 deaths and 509 injuries. The daily average number of traffic accidents in Vietnam is 100 and the average death is 27.
Vietnam of course is a very big country. With an estimated 92.7 million inhabitants as of 2016, it is the 14th-most-populous country in the world. (Wikipedia)

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Additional Photos by Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5092 W: 17 N: 12214] (49214)
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