Can Cau Market is located in Si Ma Cai district, Lao Cai Province. Can Cau Market is only 18km from Bac Ha Market, 90km from Lao Cai Station, 125km from Sapa. Can Cau Market is opened on every Saturday. Can Cau market is definitely a local market with livestock, foodstuffs, and masses of colorful fabrics and clothes for the Flower Hmong women to enhance their already elaborate outfits.
Beyond the fenced-in perimeter, pot-bellied pigs, chickens and water buffalo wait patiently by the river to be sold. They rub shoulders with magnificent wild horses, some of whom will be transporting their masters back over to China.But the market also sells the basics: traditional clothing, sacks of rice, bundles of coarse, raw wool and ironware.
Some stalls sell fresh tobacco and a rather sad array of root vegetables. People cross the border from China to trade at Can Cau (the market is only 9kms from the Chinese border, unfortunately, foreigners are not allowed to reciprocate this set-up, however tempting it may seem), something which is difficult to police in this hilly border region.
It makes for an ethnically diverse experience for the few tourists who make it there and I would certainly recommend it in preference to the more well-known Bac Ha market.One of the main attractions of visiting Sapa and the surrounding area was to go to one or more of the markets held weekly by and for the minority people of the region.
By visiting in Sapa, you will be advised to visit the Saturday market at Can Cau, rather than the more touristy Sunday market at Bac Ha.By 9 am, the market is crammed to capacity. It’s lively and surprisingly fun. The locals are mostly of the Flower Hmong minority group.
You can’t miss them – their traditional costume of green checked headdress and multi-colored, meticulously stitched and layered garments are simply stunning. Few foreigners make it to Can Cau; those that do brave the journey come either with a small tour group in four-wheel drives or – if half-mad and on a tight budget like me -on the back of a motorbike.
The handful of Westerners here this morning are the object of intense – though friendly- scrutiny. There is much laughter as we try to make basic conversation. Although the majority are painfully shy and not accustomed to seeing foreigners, some cheerfully allow photographs to be taken.