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Going to kermis at “the end of horizon”

Referring to Northern mountainous region is referring to magnificent paths, picturesque rice terraces, green tea hills… and the kermises here are unique cultural identities of ethnic minority people that enchant tourists from all over the world.

  05/10/2017 17:16

Bac Ha kermis

We came to Bac Ha town in Lao Cai province one day prior to the kermis. We were all exhausted travelling on a long way of 280km but still very excited to join this real kermis for the first time ever. Bac Ha kermis is the greatest one of minority people in the Northwest region and this kermis is opened only once every Sunday. Therefore, right from very early morning when looking out from our homestay windows, we saw long lines of ehnic minority people such as Tay, H’Mong, Dao, Lo Lo, Nung… pouring out and rushing down to the market. Some empty-handed, some with dossers, others riding bikes or motorbikes… were all wearing facial excitement as if they had saved all the joy of the whole week to spend in this kermis. 

Unlike markets on delta where people come to exchange their goods, ethnic minority people come to kermis to meet friends, lovers and chit-chatting after a long time apart. While ladies wind turbans on their heads or wearing colorful clothes, young men bring with them chickens, pigs or cows… to the kermis. They meet and talk noisily all over a usually quiet area. 

Products were displayed for sale into 4 separate sections: clothes and brocade section, agricultural tools section; animal section selling buffaloes, cows, horses, pigs; and food section selling mountainous specialties. All the booths looked very simple with bamboo frames and palm leaf roofs. Some other booths were even simpler with one tarpaulin, a mat or just a space to display their produces in front. People exchanged their goods bustlingly but there was no noise of bargains ever. After time of exchanging goods was time for gathering around the food section with cups of corn wine and a boiling indispensable mountain dish - Thang co. If people in the Delta are proud of Pho, ethnic people here are proud of Thang co. In the chilly mountain weather, together enjoying a bowl of Thang co, sipping warm corn wine was uncomparable experience in any way. When the dark came closer, we rapidly left the market to get ready for the next destinations. Footsteps returning home became more hurried but so regretful. The kermis sounds, colors and wine flavors keep following us all the way home.

Dong Van kermis

If Bac Ha is the greatest kermis of Lao Cai, Dong Van is the greatest one of Dong Van stone plateau, Ha Giang province. The two kermises are alike in term of their frequency; once a week on Sunday. Products displayed for sale here were also very abundant just like in Bac Ha kermis, from agricultural produces made by the locals such as honey, mushrooms, rice, corn, soya beans, vegetables or agricultural tools or animals and poultries. But the most attractive to tourists was the clothes and fabric section with various colors. Mountain costumes are made from different materials like real brocade and other various fabrics. When traveling backpacking, I don’t usually shop many souvenirs as they just make my luggage heavier; but on that trip, I couldn’t resist attraction from those colorful things and after all bought some brocade bags with meticulous embroidering patterns for my mother and younger sister. Another section not less attractive and bustling was animal one. Apart from chickens which were sold in kilos, other animals were sold by items. Buyers estimated the weight while the sellers estimated the time of raising and charge accordingly. This is really different but interesting.

We kept strolling around the market and trying to take as many photos of interesting moments as possible, and immersing ourselves into the bustling atmosphere of the kermis. All of a sudden, a boy insisted me on taking his photo, and then laughed hysterically when looking at his photo, a very innocent and relaxing laughter. We then also met a group of ladies buying long hair from the ethnic minority girls. It costs from 200.000 - over 1.000.000VND for each depending on the quality and length. The girl cut her hair, but hesitantly held the money and turned away. I followed her to ask her name but she replied nothing and almost cried. I could see how sad she was to do that. Just as she turned away, she turned back and smiled at me, a smile as fresh and bright as the color of brocade clothes she was wearing. Isn’t  happiness as well as grief so pure at the end of the sky?

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