By 9 am, the market is crammed to capacity. It’s lively and surprisingly fun. The locals are mostly of the Flower Hmong minority group. You can’t miss them -their traditional costume of green checked headdress and multi-colored, meticulously stitched and layered garments are simply stunning. Few foreigners make it to Can Cau; those that do brave the journey come either with a small tour group in four-wheel drives, or – if half-mad and on a tight budget like me -on the back of a motorbike.
The handful of Westerners here this morning is the object of intense – though friendly- scrutiny. There is much laughter as we try to make basic conversation. Although the majority is painfully shy and not accustomed to seeing foreigners, some cheerfully allow photographs to be taken.
Set in the mountains near the Chinese border, Can Cau Market is the area where different minority groups in colorful dress exchange local items. You will spend the whole morning there then go to Bac Ha for lunch. Light trekking to nearby villages and visit the old castle of the former Hmong king are also highlights of trips.
You can stay at hotel in Bac Ha waiting for Bac Ha Market next day or return to Sapa for overnight.
The best option is to take night trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai. From Lao Cai, we take approximately 2- hour drive to reach Can Cau Market.