The heart of the community for many Vietnamese towns is the central market. This is the place the locals visit for the freshest spices, meats and vegetables, while other items include household utensils like saucepans and brooms or even egg-laying chickens. Most of the major tourist destinations visited on the tours of Vietnam like Hoi An and Sapa have a lively market rich in fascinating food stalls with plenty of unfamiliar herbs and spices.
Here are a few of Vietnam’s best markets:
Bac Ha market
Bac Ha is located in Lao Cai province and easily reached by booking a tour from Sapa, which is approx a 2.5 hour drive away. A major reason to visit this part of north-western Vietnam is the colourful and lively Sunday market. This market has an incredible range of handicrafts available to buy on the stall with a lot of the goods coming from the local community. Bac Ha market is popular with the local hill tribe’s, including the exotically dressed and colourful Flower Hmong people. This market attracts plenty of minority people (Phu La, La Chi, Nung, Tay, Black Dao, Red Hmong (Flower Hmong) and others) who rely on the market to buy and sell a wide range of items. In addition to the small item, it is common to see livestock, such as fish, goats, cows and buffalo being traded.
For the most relaxed time while exploring the market, an overnight stay in Bac Ha on Saturday means it is possible to start navigating the market in the early morning before the high volume of day trippers arrive from nearby Sapa. The market is open from about 7.30 am until mid-afternoon, so visiting first thing is most advisable.
Can Cau market
Can Cau Market is located a short distance from the Chinese border and approx 20 km north of Bac Ha. With its close proximity to Sapa, this is another market that can feature on the tour itinerary from Sapa. It is a busy Saturday market popular with the minority people like the Phu La, Nung, Red Hmong, and even the Chinese make their way across the border. A varied range of goods are traded at this market, from a powerful local corn wine to various types of livestock to fabrics. This Saturday market is another that starts early in the day (about 7.30 am) and usually finishes for the day by early afternoon. In addition to visiting the Can Cau market in the morning, there is the option to visit the nearby village of Fu La later in the day for an afternoon trek.
Coc Ly market
The Coc Ly market is held every Tuesday and attracts the minority people like the Nung, Tay, Flower Hmong, Dzao, and others from the local region. It is easily reached from Lao Cai (1 hour drive) or Sapa (1.45 hour drive). There are a varied range of goods on offer at this market, including clothes, handicrafts, livestock to fruit and vegetables. This market is located near the Chay river with means it has stunning surroundings include two lush mountain ranges. It is open every Tuesday morning from about 7 am and continues to be lively and busy until it closes in the early afternoon.
Cai Rang floating market
The Cai Rang Floating Market is the biggest of its type in the Mekong Delta and approx 6 km from Can Tho. It is worth the effort to arrive at the market first thing (opens around 6 to 7 am) to beat the arrival of most other tourists on the Vietnam tour packages. This is mostly a wholesale market for the traders (mostly foodstuffs), but there are still plenty of choice for the individuals. The crowded waters can make an impressive sight with a long stretch of boats packed with goods waiting to be sold. Most of the traders have a long pole on their boat and attach what they are selling to the top – this makes it relatively easy to identify the boats of interest. There are several routes to arrive at the Cai Rang Floating Market, such as the 10 minute trip from the Cau Dau Sau boat landing, while travelling along the river from the market area in Can Tho can take about 45 minutes.
Phong Dien Floating Market
The Phong Dien floating market is one of the Mekong Delta's finest and most intimate markets. Phong Dien has mostly stand-up row boats with a lot less motorised craft. Also, this market has a lot fewer tourists in attendance compared to other markets, such as Cai Rang. The best time to visit this lively market on the Vietnam tours is early in the morning – between 5 am and 7 pm – with not much to see after this time. The Phong Dien floating market is easily reached by travelling from Can Tho which is about 20 km southwest of the market.
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is centrally located in one of the liveliest areas in Ho Chi Minh City. This market is rich is goods that are used, worn or eaten by the locals, and gift and souvenir ideas are also plentiful. The prices at this market can be more expensive than elsewhere, so it gives a great opportunity to try your haggling skills. Plus, there are several restaurant stalls in the market that have the most reasonable prices. Once the main indoor marketplace closes for the day, there is a much smaller night market outside that continues until late in the night.
Han Market is located in Da Nang and opens daily and busiest between the periods 6 am and 11 am and 4 pm onwards. It is a great destination for fresh meat, seafood and vegetables, as well as tropical fruits such as jackfruit, durian, mangoes and bananas. Also, for the travellers on the Vietnam travel packages in search of gifts or souvenirs for family or friends at home, there are plenty of unique ideas such as dried squid, rice crackers, Ly Son garlic and chilli paste. This market has a great food court that serves a variety of Vietnamese dishes like spring rolls (goi cuon), crispy pancake (banh xeo), and turmeric noodles (mi quang).