How my donation to the local police yielded this photograph at the Can Cau Market in Vietnam

How my donation to the local police yielded this photograph at the Can Cau Market in Vietnam

How my donation to the local police yielded this photograph at the Can Cau Market in Vietnam


The Can Cau Market is Vietnam’s most authentic and isolated open-air market. It is held only on Saturday every week and is located about an hour drive from Bac Ha in Northeastern Vietnam and nine kilometers from the Chinese border.

The market is spread out over various hillsides and features food, clothing and livestock (dogs are for sale and not for pets if you know what I mean).

This is not a tourist market where you come to buy gifts for your friends and family back home. This is where the locals go to buy and sell wild horses, pigs, chickens and water buffalo.

Come here for culture shock.

From a photographer’s point of view the beauty of the market is the riot of colors from the clothing of the various ethnic hill tribe minorities, the most colorful being the Flower Hmong tribe.

I got up early in the morning and drove on a windy, muddy and dangerous mountain pass in the rain on a motorbike for over twenty kilometers. The bike nearly lost traction two times. About a kilometer before the market, I was stopped by the local police for driving without a license and had to make a "donation."

At the market I lugged around my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera that weighed a ton in the heat and humidity. Harassed by aggressive sales ladies and flies, I was about to pack up and head back to my hotel when I saw this little girl and this scene unfold in front of me.

I guess my “donation” to the local police was well worth it.

Check back for more of my adventures in Vietnam! Two more photos in the comment section.

Happy Travels!

Text and photo copyright by ©Sam Antonio Photography

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Taken on: 5th May, 2012. Copyright: All Rights Reserved - See Sam Antonio Photography's page of Flickr

Read more about Bac Ha

It's something of a shame that few tourists venture beyond Sapa, because to the east of Lao Cai city lies the other half of the province. The ground soars upwards again to the peaks of the Chay River Massif, where the town of Bac Ha is to be found, 66 kilometres by road.

Bac Ha, at 700 metres above sea level, is a 'little Sapa', and while it's much less developed for tourism, it's in an ideal location for off-the-beaten-track treks to visit colourful weekly markets. The Can Cau and Bac Ha markets in particular feature local scenes that have been going on every week for generations, where cattle, horses, goats and dogs are bought and sold, as well as many traditional goods like saddles plus elaborate textiles, handbags and other trinkets made by the local tribespeople, the Flower Hmong. Their intricately woven daily costume is one of the main drawing points in itself. This is an incredibly beautiful part of Vietnam.

It's a very convenient ... Read our complete Bac Ha travel guide

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