Ha Giang is one of the most impressive provinces of Vietnam, with towering mountains and remote villages of hill tribes. One of the best things to do in Ha Giang is visit one of the local minority markets. These are places where these hill tribes, ethnic minorities, come together to trade stuff, food and livestock. The most impressive market in Ha Giang is the Meo Vac Sunday market. This is also the largest market in the province, where people from villages all around Meo Vac come to trade and socialize. Many of them even have to walk for kilometres and some arrive the night before, when the local bars getting fuller and the karaoke places noisier.
- Meo Vac market
- Accommodation in Meo Vac
- How to get there
- Other sights around Meo Vac
Meo Vac market
Already around 5 in the morning the market will start on the streets around the indoor market. You can see clothes, cloths, rice, kitchen items, corn wine and even stalls selling cell phones, from fairly old to modern smartphones. The best way to explore is just walk by or stand at one of the stalls and observe what they are doing. You can even try to bargain at one of the stalls where they sell local minority stuff, that you could use as a souvenir.
It is very colorful and amazing to see how to ethnic minorities are dressed. The locals from the different minority villages wear their traditional clothing. The men often wear a black jacket with pants and the women colorful skirts, shirts and scarves and some with a large basket to carry the purchased items. You see most people smile, laugh and chat, because the market is more then a trading day, it is a time for socializing. Children gather around the stalls with toys or small jewelry. Adults drinking beer and corn wine together (before breakfast). Despite all the craziness around you, the whole market has actually a very relaxed atmosphere.
The cattle market
The northern part of the market is the most interesting, the cattle market. Here you see small piglets, goats, chickens, ducks, cows and even puppies that are sold along the street. Here, merchants inspect the water buffalo or cattle that are offered. Be careful when walking at the market, because the animals don’t care where to empty their bladder. Not all people sell their cows, dogs or pigs on the market; some just bring them to show.
It is fascinating to see what is happening on the Meo Vac cattle market. You see here how all the parts of the animals is being checked by traders before a sale is completed. You see ethnic minorities walking with a piglet with a leash, men holding a number of chickens while motorbikes and scooters pass where chickens are attached with their legs and hang down, or a cage on the back of the motorcycle with a pig in it. It’s anything but boring, and you could spend a long time watching the people here, but some tourists might find this shocking.
There is also an area of the Meo Vac Sunday market indoor. The noise of conversations and negotiations and the smell of the food gives the covered market a very lively feeling. In a smaller area of the indoor market you can find a lot of food, like meat, vegetables and fruit. In the main hall you see a lot of food stalls with an open fire where soup is cooked or meat grilled. This gives a unique image, but it also makes it very smoky. You can have a good breakfast here and it is very cheap. The rest of the hall is full of stalls with more vegetables, rice and other goods. It can get crowded when it starts raining outside.
Visit Meo Vac market
- If you want to visit the Meo Vac market in Ha Giang it is best to be in Meo Vac the night before for an overnight stay. The market starts at 6 o’clock in the morning and after 10 o’clock it starts to get quieter. If you want to see the market in full glory, it’s best to go to the market between 7 and 8.
- The cattle market in particular can be shocking to people. You see animals in small cages and chickens hanging upside down on motorbikes. Of course you have to be able to handle this. If you can’t do that, there is still plenty to see on the other parts of the Meo Vac market.
- This is a real market, no souvenirs for tourists, only goods that the locals need for their daily lives.
- And not unimportant, you will only see a few tourists at this market in Ha Giang.
Accommodation in Meo Vac
Meo Vac is also a well known stop for people doing the Ha Giang loop. It is one of the bigger towns along the route with plenty of restaurants and accommodations, mostly homestays and budget hotels. Just outside Meo Vac, just after the Ma Pi Leng Pass you find Pa Vi tourist village (Google Maps location). The village looks authentic and beautiful, but it is actually a very newly built village for tourist full of homestays. It is still a very nice area to stay with a good options in homestays.
How to get there
Meo Vac is located over 400 km from Hanoi. The best way is first to take a bus or mini van from Hanoi to Ha Giang City. The ride takes around 6 to 7 hours. From Ha Giang City it is stil another 160 km to Meo Vac over winding roads. The best way is to rent a car with driver or go by motorbike to Meo Vac. If you have time enough, do the trip in 3 to 4 days so you have plenty of time to visit some of the other highlights in this province.
Tip! Do you want to visit this unique market? Check our Ha Giang loop tour that brings you to Meo Vac and most of the other amazing sights in Ha Giang.
Other sights around Meo Vac
The Sunday market is far to solely visit this, so it is best to combine with other unique and stunning sights around. Very close to Meo Vac you have the most epic mountain pass in Vietnam, the Ma Pi Leng Pass. It is on the QL4C, the road between Meo Vac and Dong Van. Also Dong Van and it’s Old Quarter are worth a visit. Even farther north you will find Lung Cu flag tower, close to the Chinese border. Heading from Dong Van to Ha Giang City you have the HMong King Palace and another scenic mountain pass called Tham Ma Pass.