Following National Highway 70 which lies by imposingly high mountains of the northern province of Lao Cai, we arrived in Bac Ha District, which is known by the name “white plateau.”
Coming to Bac Ha, most tourists visit the market session of Mong ethnic people. The session is usually held in the district’s center. From the previous evening, Mong people go down the mountains to prepare for the market session the next morning.
Bac Ha has market sessions in different areas for different goods, including brocade products, working tools made by Mong people, homegrown vegetables, livestock and poultry. Among the specialties of Mong people are dried chili and sugarcane, which is soft, sweet and aromatic as sugarcane plants are grown on the plateau with cool weather all year round.
In a market session, the most bustling place which always gathers a lot of people is the food area, and the dish that arouses curiosity for visitors from other places the most is thang co, a traditional dish of Mong people which has become popular among other ethnic groups such as Dao, Tay, Thai. The traditional thang co was made of horsemeat, but now beef, buffalo meat and pork is used by each ethnic group in each region. However, the best one is the thang co from horsemeat in Bac Ha, Muong Khuong and Sapa in Lao Cai Province where the dish was born.
In early morning, stalls selling thang co attracts many people, especially Mong men who sit down for a bowl of thang co and a glass of wine.
Those who visit Bac Ha in spring can admire the beauty of the district as plump trees flower and make the plateau look like a carpet of flowers that lighten up the whole area, giving it the name “white plateau”. Plump trees are seen everywhere from hillsides, plains and gardens. Summer is when Mong people harvest plumps and bring them to the district center for sale.
The plump harvesting season is also the time when people in Bac Ha hold their horse-racing festival at the district center and lure thousands of locals and visitors.