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Photographer's Note

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This is a B&W-converted copy of an old scan of Bac Ha Sunday Market in Vietnam with a little girl balancing her life: one hand with an ice creama product of civilization and electricity that she couldnt find in her mountainous remote area five or six walking hours from town; another hand a rope to lead the water-buffalo to market for sale.

Bac-Ha, 144 km from Sa Pa (on opposite direction from Lao Cai) is spoilt by tourists and photographers who crowded on weekend to watch minority groups at Sunday Marketa weekly hill tribe event that draws locals in from all over the surrounding area.

It is warmer than Sa Pa and much less tourism industry than Sa Pa, the market is a riot of color and noise, a place not only for trade but also for socializing. All paths leading into town are filled with people going to market, some riding horses or water buffalo, and the square is a mix of different minorities, buying and selling, or gathered in groups around a central pot of food. The bad thing is the infrastructure in Bac Ha is not as convenient as in Sa Pa (hotel and power are in worse condition). Minority men are heavy drinkers and it is amazing to see groups of tribal women heading home, each one leading a horse behind her with her drunken husband on the saddle. Anyway, the people and landscape are far more interesting than Sa Pa.

These minority people live highest in the mountains, and are renowned for their musicality, songs and word-play. The women wear tunic-style dresses of hemp fabric, dyeing with natural indigo to a deep purple-black. They wear strips of indigo cloth as leggings, and stunning silver bangles around their necks and arms, with richly colored clothes of bright red, blue and pink, and skirts embroidered with delicate flowers. The market has been a major tourist attraction and it is important that visitors to the region are sensitive to local culture and traditions, particularly when taking photographs of people.

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ABOUT THE LOCATION

Early Sunday mornings, villagers from various ethnic communities gather to sell their products or livestock at the market of Bac Ha, which then transforms into what may well be one of the most colourful markets in Vietnam. Many people arrive on foot, on ponies or if rich enough on a motorcycle. You will see traditional blacksmiths repairing the hooks of the local farmers using open fires, men surrounding piles of tobacco and checking the quality, resulting in beautiful smoky sights, colourful women selling small pigs or a bit difficult for most of us cute little puppies in cages. The Flower HMong women are extremely colourful, with their gorgeous attire in vibrant colours, layers of dresses and underskirts of printed and embroidered fabrics, heads covered with interesting shaped and folded scarves.

WHAT TO PHOTOGRAPH

Believe me, its difficult not to photograph! The colourful Flower HMong women generally dont object having their picture taken. The market and food stalls are a sight for sore eyes.

WHEN TO PHOTOGRAPH

As with most markets, early morning is the best to photograph the Sunday market of Bac Ha, when there are most people, when the light is less harsh and when many villagers enjoy their steaming pho, the traditional noodle soup.

OTHER INFO

The market can be very muddy and misty, bring good shoes and a light rain coat.

*Mirjam Letsch




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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 471 W: 125 N: 2332] (8458)
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