*** My apologies, this is another super long post.
The Sunday Market in Bac Ha is considered to be the largest of it's kind in the mountainous region of Vietnam near the Chinese border. Most days, Bac Ha is little more than a sleepy, dusty, mountain village, with nary a horse drawn cart roaming the main streets. But on market Sunday, the place is alive, and you can feel the electricity in the air.
There were vendors everywhere selling all sorts of goods.
Yesterday, what was a major construction area, was today filled with food stands.
All of these were making different versions of Xoi Chien, fried sweet rice snacks.
Chewy, mystery meat filled, greasy, fried sticky rice cakes about sums it up.
It really did seem that Bac Ha finds its "Glass Slippers" every Sunday, and is transformed into Cinderella. Or as the Missus would say, "more appropriately Yè Xiàn."
Or chilies, so fresh that smelling them can bring tears to your eyes, for those who think "red means go." Actually, these chilies have a nice heat, but also a sweet, fruity finish as well.
Or maybe you need a cure for what ails you.
Herbs direct from China just a few kilometers away.
Perhaps your Botox is wearing off, and you're in need of a "freshening up". Well, let me introduce you to the "not so latest thing".
Maybe some Python Fat would be just what you need.
Perhaps you need to consummate that Vietnamese Plastic Slipper fetish you have, or maybe you're just channeling your inner Imelda Marcos. Well, they've a cure for that here as well.
I know what, you're thinking; "why doesn't this idiot just stick with the food."
Check out the fresh Bamboo Shoots. I picked one up(it was nice and heavy), took a whiff, and I swear I could hear the whistling of the wind through the leaves and feel the cool breeze on my face.
Thinh stopped by this little snack stand....I wonder why?
Skirting the other fried food stands, we made our way to the market perimeter. This is where all the "real" food vendors are.
The largest section served up pork, pork, and more pork. The pork was divided into different cuts(the belly looked really good), the ribs, skin, and even sausage was available.
Another section was indicated by this.
Apparently, that is the Vietnamese universal sign for Horse. And the large woks and pots were bubbling away.
Unfortunately(or maybe fortunately) for me, it wasn't ready to be served.
Now here's something you can help me with. I asked Thinh what this was, and was told, "corn noodle".
It looked like something created with a gelatinous thickener, and was cut from large blocks.
Compared to other markets, the meat section was rather small. As was the selection of fish and seafood, since we were quite far for any large bodies of water.
The selection of dried fish, though, was quite extensive.
And all you need to find it is to use your nose.
And just in case you want to try your hand at making Ruou Ngo(corn wine/spirit/hootch/moonshine - or literally "alcohol"), I was told that these are the "yeast cakes" used.
So tell me, what do you think these 2 guys are doing?
Comparing notes? Contemplating Ruou futures? Deciding what numbers to select for the Fantasy Five? In actuality, this was a fairly intense negotiation session. Over what you may ask? Meet our newest model Water Buffalo, comes with all the latest features, standard.
Does that look like 7,000,000 VND(approx $440/US) worth of Water Buffalo to you? In all seriousness, it has been a tough year. The long, cold winter has taken a toll on local livestock, and water buffalo are in demand. It was fascinating watching this transaction take place. Much of the conversation and negotiation is done very quietly.
The livestock area at Bac Ha market is huge, and everything is being sold. From dogs of all ages(don't ask).
To pigs, carried in burlap bags, on leashes, and even stacked like firewood.
By this time, the crowds were beginning to arrive, slogging the already cramped walkways. It was time to leave. Bac Ha's main street was filled with motorbikes, buses of tourists, and people milling about. And while the market at Can Cau is smaller, and full of charm in a quaint kind of way; the market at Bac Ha is larger and much more intense.
It is a sight to behold. And we were glad to have seen it this way. You see, in addition to the nice smooth asphalt that vehicles will be driving on soon, we walked through major construction on our way to the market.
Once those buildings are completed, most of the market in Bac Ha will be moved indoors. So you'll be able to walk on nice clean and new concrete, past well marked signs, and look out over the new man-made lake. And feel positively civilized.
Yes, it seems that the Wild Stallion that is the market at Bac Ha will be tamed. It is just progress I guess.
A few times since we've returned from vacation, I've had dreams of dusty pavements and lively swirls of color......
And have woken with the taste of Ruou on my lips. I guess I was dreaming about Can Cau and Bac Ha again.........