As a famous destination in Lao Cai province, Sapa town possesses the poetic beauty of terraced fields, the towering Fansipan peak, and several rustic villages. This foggy land also attracts people with its unique culture, which comes from the simple life, long tradition, delicious cuisine, and different forms of arts of the locals. In particular, it is impossible not to mention the Sapa Love market, an event that you cannot miss when visiting this town, with some information that you can refer to below:
1 - When and where does Sapa love market take place?
Source: Mars Hartdegen
In the past, the Sapa love market often took place in random empty spaces, but in recent years it is held at a fixed location, which is the square in front of the Stone Church for convenience. This special activity now also happens weekly every Saturday night, instead of only taking place once a year as in the beginning, making it less difficult for visitors to have a chance to participate. If possible, you should arrange your time and schedule to have the trip on the weekend, so that you can explore the local culture with interesting activities, as well as enjoy Sapa specialties in the fair.
You can comfortably visit Sapa love market without any cost, feel the bustling atmosphere when people from other villages come here to meet, and tourists from all over come to experience. This has become a unique cultural space, not only a place for ethnic youngsters to meet their fate, but also a chance for locals to have cultural activities, exchange goods, and support regional tourism. Amidst the white fog, green mountains, and forests is a bustling scene, adorned by the khen sounds of village boys, the enchanting dances of highland girls wearing colorful dresses, and sparkling jewelry.
2 - Sapa love market’s unique features
Called a “market” but the main content of the love market in Sapa is not buying and selling goods. This is simply an occasion for young people to gather. This is a fair with the main item being “emotion” - ethnic boys and girls come here to find a lover, creating one of the most unique cultural features of the Sapa people.
Love market festival in Sapa - Source: Internet
Of course, it doesn't happen in a monotonous way like ordinary markets, instead, there are very unique cultural activities, imbued with the identity of Vietnam's northern mountainous region such as tug of war, playing the leaves trumpet, or singing love songs.
Before entering the Sapa love market, ethnic youths regardless of gender prepare very carefully, wearing the most beautiful clothes, jewelry and accessories. Guys have brocade clothes and sparkling silver bracelets, while highland girls will wear traditional dresses. They often bring something to give to the boy they like as a token, such as a ring, bracelet, comb, etc., typically the brocade band of H'Mong girls. Made from beautiful and colorful threads, these bands are sometimes even given as gifts to tourists because it also carries the meaning of warding off evil spirits.
During the Sapa love market, the boys bring both Khen (a local music instrument) and corn wine, which are drunk with bamboo tubes to bring out the flavors of Northwest mountains and forests. After getting drunk and becoming braver, they blew the Môi trumpet (lip trumpet) with leaves to attract the girls, then showed off their skills while dancing and blowing the Khen skillfully around the person they like. If satisfied, the girl will sing along, give the other person the engagement token and “run away”, then the guy will pull them back to show his determination and the two will have a private conversation later.
In addition to the young kids who follow their siblings to get acquainted with this interesting culture, you can also meet the adults and older people in this Sapa love market. That's because the custom of the Dao people here does not forbid married people to join, while H'Mong families come here to strengthen their love. The couple split up into the crowd, the husband plays the trumpet while the wife dances and sings, but they only use songs for married people. Wives also pour wine and encourage their husbands to drink as much as possible, as it's proof that he has many friends.
3 - What can visitors experience at Sapa love market?
- Enjoying traditional dances with the locals
Coming to the Sapa love market, you can experience interesting cultural activities such as enjoying the dances of the Dao and H'Mong people, and immersing in the smooth songs. Gathering in a crowded place, you will be able to see the boys playing the flute revolve around, and the girls wearing ethnic dresses, legs with rattles, holding umbrellas jumping back and forth on bamboo sticks. Paying attention to this performance, you easily realize that the dance is only a part of it, the rest are the actions of youngsters in the past stylized to create soft gestures like they are dancing.
Source: Scott Biales
- Trying the great local food
In addition to cultural exchange programs, the Sapa love market is also a place for you to enjoy typical Sapa dishes, especially grilled foods with the special spice called Mac Khen seeds. On a cold night in the mountain town, enjoying fragrant grilled skewers from vegetables, buffalo meat, porks, or Thang Co (stewed horse meat and offal) with a few glasses of corn wine is unforgettable experiences on your journey. After moments of dancing and playing, you can also gather around a salmon hot pot, sturgeon hot pot, or grilled stream fish, tasting chestnut, peach, and plum cakes sold at the Sapa love market.
- Buying handmade souvenirs & local items
In addition, the square area where the love market in Sapa is held also becomes a place where locals gather every evening to sell souvenirs with brocade motifs. Therefore, coming here, you will have the opportunity to buy things at small stalls displaying eye-catching rings, bracelets, bags, or towels, and take pictures with ethnic children. After visiting the Sapa love market in the chilly evening air, you can also visit the Stone Church, a religious architecture built in the late 19th century. This is considered a sign. The most complete ancient architectural impression left by the French to this day has now become one of the indispensable symbols of the mountain town of Sapa.
4 - Tips for visitors when visiting Sapa love market
In the face of cultural differences, foreign visitors or people from the lowlands should note a few small things to make a visit to the love market in Sapa more convenient. First of all, the fair is held in a public place with many participants, so you should remember to pay attention to keeping your belongings and personal assets, to avoid dropping or getting things stolen, which is very troublesome. In addition, you should not tease the girls or boys, because when they come here, they are all very serious about finding themselves a soulmate and aiming towards marriage.
In particular, female visitors should not wear ethnic clothes, dressing up as the Dao or H'Mong girls while walking around the Sapa love market, to avoid being involved in the “wife capture”. This traditional custom used to have a beautiful meaning, usually just a performance by couples who had discussed it, with the consent of both families. But over time, with the deviation in transmission and the actions of people with bad intentions, it has been corrupted and no longer beautiful. Catching wife custom in Sapa is not as popular as it used to be, but if someone intentionally does it, many people around will still think it's a performance and won't help you.
The fair is a cultural feature unique to the highland ethnic minorities and is a special highlight in the tourism of mountainous Northern Vietnam. By joining the Sapa love market, you can feel the bustling ethnic atmosphere, learn about regional culture, and participate in many traditional activities. Lao Cai province also has an equally famous fair called Bac Ha, the largest love market in the region and one of the 10 most attractive ones in Southeast Asia. Hopefully, with the above information about the Sapa love market, you will have unforgettable experiences during your visit to this beautiful and poetic land.