To go from Sapa to Bac Ha, we first took a local bus to Lao Cai which is a transit city and one of the border city to go to China. We had never been so close to China! At Lao Cai bus station, we were immediately spotted by a bus driver who brought us to his minivan which was leaving at 11.45 am. However another driver showed up and told us he was leaving at 10.30 am so we gave up the first one. We were in the middle of the drivers and feeling that they were trading us to one another, not a very nice feeling… Our minivan left at 10.30 am with only us on board, but it started what I would call a hellish loop around the city, looking for other passengers to go to Bac Ha! During one hour, he went all around the city again and again, picking up people, putting vegetables, a dog, empty plastic bottles, parcels… in the minivan. When it was full, we started to leave the city, but the driver spotted four Hmong people (an ethnic minority in Vietnam, we recognize them because of their colored traditional clothes) on the road and asked to drive them. Alex and I looked at each other: the minivan was already super full… But no worries, the driver opened his back door threw outside all the stuff we had collected for one hour, arranged another set of seats instead at the back, made the Hmong people get inside, and put all the stuff on the roof of the minivan! We were finally ready to go!
In Bac Ha, we were greated by Trung our host who lives in a beautiful house he designed himself as he is an architect. He lives with his mother, his wife and two lovely daughters who welcomed us so nicely! I have to say I spent the next few days to draw princesses for them and be a hairdresser’s model, while Alex was making them laugh by his jokes.
The day after our arrival, we devoted our first morning in Bac Ha to trek around the city. We did a 10 km loop going through the village of Ban Pho, and in the middle of beautiful rice fields. The rice fields where less impressive than the ones around Sapa, but the walk was much more in the nature and people were friendly, contrary to Sapa where I guess they are more used to tourists.
In Bac Ha, there is also a manor built by a French architect for a rich Vietnamese man. It is surprising to discover its unique style in the middle of the city.
We loved the peaceful atmosphere of Bac Ha so we stayed there from Wednesday to Sunday. Sunday is when everything accelerates in Bac Ha, because of the well-known Sunday market which attracts plenty of tourists. Generally, tourists arrive on Saturday night and leave on Sunday just after visiting the market. We woke up early to see the market without any tourists. We enjoyed the beautiful colors of the Hmong people traditional clothes, the vegetables, the handicrafts, and also the buffalos market, where buffalos are sold at 500 to 2000 USD! We were told that people invest in the buffalo when it is young to sell it 3 years after. In the meanwhile, buffalos help for cultivating the rice.
And on Sunday afternoon, we took a motorbike with Trung to drive North and discover amazing rice fields! For sure, these where much better than the ones we saw near Sapa. We drove 30 km, crossing local villages, stopping a lot to take pictures as the rice fields where more and more beautiful under the sun. Surely it was our highlight of our stay in Bac Ha!