The colourful charm of a Sunday market in northernmost Vietnam



By Phong Lan

Dong Van: A market in Vietnam’s northernmost mountainous province of Ha Giang has attracted lots of visitors thanks to its unique beauty featuring diversified cultures of the local ethnic minority groups.

The Dong Van Market is located about 150 kilometres to the northeast of Ha Giang City. The area is home to dozens of ethnic minority groups among the total of 54 groups living in Vietnam.

The market is held once a week, on Sunday, and is a trading place for the Tay, Nung, Han, Hmong, Hoa, Dao and Kinh and other peoples who live mostly on growing rice and corn and raising cattle in surrounding mountains.


Visitors to Dong Van travel through breathtaking mountain and valleys scenery of the unique karst plateau geopark before exploring the daily life of local people at the market.

The market gathers as early as 5am and lasts until noon. On Sunday, all the roads to the market become busy since early morning with people carrying goods on their hands, backs, horses or motorbikes. Most of them come from up in the mountains or down in the valleys, miles away.

Everyone looks eager as they eagerly wait for this special event. This is not only a place where people sell their home-grown vegetables, fruits, cattle and poultry, and farming tools but also an event for them to date or meet friends. Women usually wear colourful traditional dresses while men mostly dress in black.

Although a visitor may get overwhelmed by the beauty of a female shopkeeper or stuck at a crowded souvenir stall, he will finally find that the market is divided in some different sections where different goods are displayed for sale.


Some of the most exciting corners include the food stalls and shops selling clothes or farming tools. The food stalls attract lots of customers to try traditional cakes made from rice, buckwheat or corn, pho (noodle with pork, beef or chicken), xoi ngu sac (steamed rice with five different colours), and thang co (a traditional soup made from horse meat). The cakes and steamed rice all taste very good but it’s not sure everyone can enjoy the thang co soup. It depends on their taste.

The most special corner of the market lies at a large ground where live animals are displayed for sale. Buffaloes, cows, horses, pigs, dogs, and chickens, old and young, are all brought here for trading among mostly local people.

Some people said that they walked some five kilometres on mountain road just to bring a chicken or a dog to sell at the market.


But they also added that they came here not just to sell and buy. They came to see people and enjoy the bustling atmosphere which is different from their quiet remote villages. Young people usually see this a good place to look for their partners.

And this shows how important the market is in their lives.

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