Bac Ha Vietnam, what to do and what to visit?
- on Mar 13, 2020       By: BN
Nestled in the mountains of the Northwest, the small town of Bac Ha seems less hectic than Sapa or Ha Giang, but seduces just as many travellers for its discreet and authentic roads. A visit for a weekend is worth the detour to offer you a beautiful escape, between green mountains, rivers, caves, historic remains and ethnic villages.
A little history of Bac Ha
Originally from the Tay ethnic language, "Pạc ha" means "a hundred thatch boots". During the colonial era, Pac ha was pronounced "Pakha" by the French and then "Bac Ha" by the Viet until now. The “White plateau” of the Northwest regions, Bac Ha owes its nickname to the immense valleys of plum blossoms which unfold beautifully in spring. Remember that before the 80s, the mountainous lands of the North like Lang Son, Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Lai Chau were the kingdom of poppies. It was from 1993 that plum trees came to replace them to impose its pretty flowers upon the meadows and gardens.
East of Lao Cai, some 70 km from the capital of Lao Cai and 300 km from Hanoi.
How to get to Bac Ha from Hanoi?
Travel the same Hanoi – Sapa route to reach Bac Ha by bus or train.
When to go?
• In spring, that’s also the flowering of plum blossoms before and after the lunar new year
• Bac Ha ethnic market
• Horse races which are held annually in early June when the plums are ripe
• The feast of worship to the gods of Earth and Water which begins on the 15th of the 1st lunar month
• The festival of Bac Ha temple held on the 7th of the 7th lunar month
What to visit in Bac Ha?
Bac Ha ethnic markets
A must for your visit to Bac Ha is undoubtedly its weekly markets. Let yourself be carried away by the smells and flavours of the mountains as well as by its unique atmosphere.
Sunday meeting of merchants in well-coloured costumes, the Bac Ha market brings together no less than ten ethnic groups populating the region and its surroundings. The place wakes up early in the morning when men and women are busy around their selection goods of the week to exhibit. The market consists of four halls displaying household products, brocades, animals and dishes where you will find a wide choice of articles and specialities of Bac Ha from neighbouring tribes.
Sneak into the stalls overflowing with merchandise from field tools to buffaloes, horses, clothing and souvenirs. Try to taste some typical dishes in the gastronomic hall which, with that of brocades, is in full swing all day.
If you arrive in Bac Ha on Tuesday, head for the Coc Ly market, which is about 40 kilometres from Lao Cai city, and is also worth a detour to immerse yourself in the local culture of the Hmong.
Hoang A Tuong Residence
Built for eight years, from 1914 to 1921, and occupying four thousand square metres, the building of the most important family in Bac Ha at the time boasts of a mixture of styles between French architecture from the 17th - 18th century and the Tay stilt houses. Surrounded by mountains, the peaceful hill where Hoang A Tuong's residence stands offers picturesque views of the lush countryside. This beautiful place offers a memorable trip where many visitors come to stroll in a mystical atmosphere between nature and architectural harmony.
Valley of Flowers Thai Giang Pho
Only less than two kilometres from the centre of Bac Ha, the Thai Giang Pho valley is worth a break to get lost in the bewitching world of scents and colours. Flower lovers will linger over there, daydreaming in its gardens where all kinds of local and exotic flowers abound, each more beautiful than the last. You have to go there to marvel at its thousand and one orchids that bloom there all seasons or even cross the lavender fields for a very fragrant break.
If you are in love with the pink-purple colour of the buckwheat, come and admire them at Po Cho 2 in Lau Thi Ngai commune, Airport 2 in Thai Giang Pho commune and La Di Thang in Ta Van Chu commune. They are ideal for visits, especially on the occasion of major festivities, namely the party on April 30 and the horse races held in early June.
Ban Pho or Pho village
Located four kilometres from Bac Ha, the Pho village of the Hmong invites you to taste its famous corn alcohol, its first speciality known for a particular taste. Take the time to visit a local family who will surprise you with a friendly exchange. Immediately upon arrival, immerse yourself in a pleasant smell of corn that wafts all over the kitchen.
It is here that we make, according to the traditional Hmong method, corn alcohol which is prized in particular in the weekly Bac Ha and Can Cau markets.
Hang Tien or Fairy Cave
In the direction of the Chay river, about six kilometres by boat, you will find yourself in the heart of the primitive forests cradled by a temperate climate and a relaxing setting between steep cliffs, towering trees and babbling streams. There, the fairies spring is revealed, which leads you, after two hundred metres, to the fairy cave which is capable of welcoming a good hundred visitors. The place is shaped by different levels constituting a fascinating rampart of rocks. Legend has it that the fairies wandered there without wanting to leave because of its bewitching decor. It’s up to you to experience it to witness the beauty with your own eyes.
Bac Ha Temple
The 19th century Bac Ha Temple is dedicated to Vu Van Uyen and Vu Van Mat, two brothers to whom Bac Ha owed regional stability at the time. The Temple Festival, which takes place on the 7th of the 7th lunar month to pay homage to the Vu heroes, is also a Mecca for lively and fun traditional festivities.
Where to stay in Bac Ha?
The Bac Ha district offers around 50 accommodations including 23 hotels. You can also stay with locals in Pho village, Na Lo (Ta Chai), Trung Do (Bao Nhai), Na Hoi Tay and Na Hoi Nung hamlets.
Bac Ha gastronomy
The "Pho chua", the "Thang co" soup, the sticky rice with seven colours of the Nung Din, the young sticky rice from Bac Ha... So many local culinary surprises not to be missed once you come to Bac Ha. Note that unlike the Pho in Hanoi, Pho Bac Ha is typical of Vietnamese pho in the mountains with a seasoning of pork, aromatic herbs and peanuts. This cold meal is distinguished by brown noodles and a slightly sour sauce.
The "Thang co" dish, on the other hand, is a very popular dish that is found everywhere in the Northern mountains such as Ha Giang, Sapa and Lang Son.