These aren't town and city markets with meat and veggies for sale — these are genuine country markets, with livestock trading and myriad handcrafted homewares and souvenir stalls.
Minorities living high in the hills walk hours on end to get here just to pick up a new plough-head or a wooden saddle. They are also social centres for clans living in disparate circumstances and the scenes on display are like something out of National Geographic.
The markets in the western part of the province, in and around Bac Ha, can be visited on daytrips from Sapa — expect to pay around $15 — but it's a long time on the bus, so we highly recommend visiting those out of Lao Cai, or better yet, Bac Ha.
One worthwhile market that is more convenient from Sapa is the Sunday Muong Hum Market, 30 kilometres to the northwest. On our last visit the roads were under construction and dangerous, but once the work's done it'll be worth a visit.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 15th October, 2013.