You buy from me?

Let’s take a break from Europe and gab about textiles today. Late last year I was in Asia for a few weeks. One of the highlights of this trip was trekking through North Vietnam. In this mountainous area near the Chinese border, there are numerous ethnic minority tribes (the H’mong, Tay, Thai, Hoa, and Dao to name a few) identifiable from afar by their distinct colorful traditional dresses, headgear, hairstyle, and jewelry. Up close you can also see some slight physical differences in their faces from tribe to tribe.

I took a midnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, arriving around 6am the next day. There I was met by my personal guide, a local 23 year old kid who aspired to move to the big city (Hanoi). Every time he mentioned Hanoi his eyes lit up; it was his El Dorado. His English was good and he told me he was learning French on the side in order to get more tour guide gigs, but by the end of the morning he said it was just better to speak Vietnamese! In my sleep deprived state, I thought his driver did a pretty formidable job on those narrow, winding, hilly roads. Had I been more conscious I suppose I would have been frightened out of my mind. There were hardly any signs and the only road rule was to not run into pedestrians or oncoming cars. How he could see anything through the dense fog was beyond me.

But if you are a textile enthusiast like me, you would risk life and limb to arrive at the Bac Ha Market and indulge your senses in all of this…

Yesss, I shopped:

Bac Ha is a huge open-air market (though parts of the market have a corrugated tin roof over them) that’s held every Sunday. You can find just about anything that you need there, from clothes to dry goods to livestock. It’s a shame that this market has become so commercialized from increased tourism, so as you enter the market you feel like you are at a tourist trap with so many stalls hawking souvenirs. Little kids will come up and enunciate crisply in their best English: “You buy from me?” After buying the same bracelet from the fifth kid, you may get weary. But you have to keep walking, dodging and pressing through the crowds toward the center and back of the market where all the local action happens, and watch life unfold…

Tomorrow, I’ll see you in Sapa.


  1. beatrice

    J’ai toujours eu des reves de vietnam dans la tete…mais je vais avoir bien du mal à attendre le jour ou je pourrai y aller maintenantque j’ai vu tes images!d’ou vient ce sentiment de plénitude qui m’envahit à la vue de ces scènes de la vie quotidienne?Des couleurs chatoyantes des costumes et des tisus?De na noblesse dans le visage de ces simples paysans? De la majesté des paysages?Je ne sais…merci pour le voyage!!

  2. beatrice

    j’ai toujours revé de visiter le vietnam…et tu m’en as encore donné plus envie!comment se fait-il que tout le monde soit beau là-bas? que les couleurs soient si chatoyantes?et d’ou vient cette impression de plénitude qui nous envahit devant ces scènes de lasimple vie quotidienne, si simples et si riches?J

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