7 Day 6 Night Northeastern Vietnam Motorbike tour
Colorful highland fairs
The local people live with forest, so the culture of forest seems to be connected with their blood. Coming to the fairs, they bring special agricultural products or handicrafts made from forest materials with detailed workmanship and minds of gentle and plain people. Such fairs will make female bikers satisfied, even the most difficult bikers because they will find pleasant brocade gifts!
Normally, each district holds a fair on a day in the week. Therefore, every week has fairs. If you join motorbike touring within one week in the Northern Vietnam mountainous area, you will see at least one or two fairs. Tourists coming to Sa Pa usually see that on Saturday morning, H’mong men lead horses carrying their wives and bringing something to sell. On Saturday afternoon, however, wives lead horses carrying their drunken husbands. For H’mong people, they must be drunk when joining fairs and they will not be happy if they are not drunk. If someone dances with Khen (a kind of ethnic flute), everyone joins with him immediately. Fair participants wear the most beautiful clothes and climb slopes, wade streams all day or even some days to reach the fairs. They come to the fairs in the afternoon before to play flute, sing, dance and play until evening or even the whole night. Muong Hum fair, Bac Ha fair, Dong Van fair and Meo Vac fair are held on Sundays, Coc Ly fair on Mondays, Can Cau fair on Saturday. When coming to the fairs, everyone can find their needed things because such fairs always sell many forest and mountainous specialties such as brocade, vegetable and fruit, herb medicine, forest bamboo shoots, mushroom, village pork, apple, plum and peach.
Fairs may be an ideal place to buy souvenirs, especially for those who want to change their style. It is quite easy to find brocade products with vivid and colorful patterns. This may be a heaven for linen fans because most brocade products are made from linen and natural cotton! It is also very easy to see linen be embroidered very quickly by the persons with dark hands caused by dyeing cajuput color.
Everyone often tell each other that once you’ve come to the Northwestern highland markets, you must try the local specialties. Otherwise, it is deemed that you have never come to such markets. Local dishes are more typically delicious than any luxurious restaurants. On the way to the market, you can see a group of people getting together around a big boiling black pan called “thắng cố”. This is a famous dish of H’mong people. The most delicious “thắng cố” must be cooked with meat and viscera (heart, liver, intestines, etc.) of a horse and various spices such as cinnamon, anise, cardamom and chives. Wild vegetables are also important for this dish. It is quite difficult to express the sweetness, greasiness, tastiness and fragrance of this specialty. When you look at this dish for the first time, you may be hesitant. However, once you’ve tried it, you will never forget this taste.
One of the foods that make you scared is Nam Pia. This is a traditional food of Thai people in Moc Chau, Son La. This food is prepared quite finically. People often take “pịa” (small tool) from small intestine of an ox. Its bones and viscera are stewed for broth. Then, “pịa” is poured into such broth.
Small intestine with removed “pịa” is tied and sliced, mixed with herbs, cocoon powder, garlic, chili and sawtooth herb. All of these spices are chopped and boiled. “Pịa” pot is boiled on wood stove until “pịa” becomes viscous. This food is served with cut banana vegetable and peppermint leaves. When scooped into a bowl, nậm pía is brown, viscous, rather smelly and bitter. If you come here for the first time and you are invited to try this food, you will feel scared and don’t dare to eat because it is not fragrant and attractive. However, once you’ve tried a piece of this food, you may not feel as scared as you thought and you will feel the fragrance of cocoon and other spices. Nậm pịa may be found only in the Northwestern Vietnam, i.e. in Moc Chau, Son La.
Smoked buffalo meat or bacon is also very popular in this region. If you visit any fair, don’t forget to take some smoked buffalo or bacon so that we can enjoy them with cold beer after a motorbike touring day. It will be so wonderful!
Aforesaid is one of the unforgettable dishes for tourists who have been here. You will feel quite surprised at the diversity of goods at highland fairs. Apart from clothes and food, you can seen many other things, especially superior knives, sculpture booths, traditional musical instrument booths, electronic appliance booths, utensil booths or traditional Vietnamese medicine booths with ethnic traditional medicine types for sexual and reproductive health. More interestingly, there are hair salons in these fairs with only 2 USD.
Once you’ve been to highland fairs, you will be fascinated by vivid colors such as red chili, green vegetables, yellow banana or various colors of brocades with various patterns. In other corners, you can see agricultural tools or electronic appliances or animals such as buffalo, ox, dog and pig. Each ethnic group has its own typical clothes. Everyone will get lost in vivid colors of brocade worn by ethnic girls such as Lo Lo, Dzao, La Chi and H’mong. Such vivid colors create a cheerful atmosphere for the fairs.
Truly speaking, highland fair is not only a place to exchange goods but also like a festival for ethnic groups. Therefore, once you’ve been here, you may feel impressed by the fact that the quantity of participants is bigger than the goods sold. They come here to meet friends and find lovers. This is also a chance for old lovers to meet each other. Thus, fairs are regarded as a night party of the local people. They come here only to get together around “Thắng Cố” pot and enjoy “champagne”. They share with each other the food and drink prepared at home and they get drunk together. For them, fairs are a place to meet, make friends and find lovers!
Anyone who has come to fairs must say that “It is so impressive, wonderful and colorful. Thank you!” These words are often given to ethnic girls. These girls come to fairs with their most beautiful dresses that have been made by them for a long time. They bring to fairs their beautiful clothes, shy smiles and clear voices. In these fairs, also known as love fairs, there are many people who find their true loves. Boys and girls come to fairs to find, see lovers, drink together, get drunk together and dance together in the skillful flute sound of H’mong boys. That is the sound of trust and happiness. By that way, highland fairs become a remembrance and yearning for many people, especially young people.
Today’s life has many changes, so traditional fairs are not as simple as they used to be. However, once you’ve discovered Vietnam, especially the Northern Vietnam highlands, don’t forget to visit fairs. The local people still maintain their fairs as if they were their breath and cultural tradition. Accordingly, although there are some changes in such fairs, specific beauty and cultural identity are still kept. Furthermore, unique beauty of highland fairs will remain unchanged!
In short, highland fairs are the most fabulous chance to discover the culture, tradition and daily life of the local people in Vietnam. This is also the reason why we, Vietnam Motorbike Tours Club, always choose to stop at some highland fairs for sightseeing and taking photos!