Can Cau Market-SapaThe Can Cau Market is Located in Si Ma Cai District, Northern Vietnam. It is a traditional market of the ethic minority people called the Red Mhongs The Red Mhongs have been living here for many generations and the market itself caters mainly for their simple needs. This is one of not many ethic markets with its traditional style, glamour and colour.
Can Cau Market Overview
The Can Cau Market is Located in Si Ma Cai District, Northern Vietnam. It is a traditional market of the ethic minority people called the Red Mhongs The Red Mhongs have been living here for many generations and the market itself caters mainly for their simple needs. This is one of not many ethic markets with its traditional style, glamour and colour.
Si Ma Cai district is in Lao Cai, the latter a northern mountainous region of Vietnam. The district has a common border with China. It takes about 1-3 hours of drive from the center of Lao Cai to the market. The daily passenger bus service between Si Ma Cai and the provincial capital takes a bit longer. The Lao Cai to Si Ma Cai road is bitumen surfaced and travels up in the mountainous on a winding journey. The Si Ma Cai terrain consists of hilly and is mountainous with the elevation rising up to 2,000 meters.
The population in Si Ma Cai district in 2007 was 27, 800 residents living in 13 communes. The total number of villages in the district is 90.
The people attend Can Cau Market
It is located between hills. Access road is in background. Of total of households of over 5,000 in the district, 4,776 are of minority people that belong to 7 main ethic minority groups. Of district’s households, 77% are Mhong ethic minority while the all ethic minorities add up to 99% of percent of the residents. The district population is, therefore, predominantly Mhong People. The poverty rate among the Mhong people is high with over 70 percent reported as poor. The monthly income of poor household is below 200,000 VND (US$ roughly equals 16,000 VND).
The Mhong ethic minority
This ethic minority is commonly known as the flower Mhong owing to the head cover which resembles a “flower”. The traditional dress of Mhong women his colorful, attractive and provides protection agaist the cooler climate up in the mountains. This dress actually id their day-to-day attire as well, being worn while at work, out in the field, at home, visiting outside and of course to visit the market.
The district of Si Ma Cai has 3 markets of which the important one for the Red Mhong ( or th4 Flower Mhong) minority people is at Can Cau, right before reaching the center of the town traveling from Lao Cai. The market is held every Sunday from about 6 am to 1 pm. The market performs a variety of functions in the lifestyles of the Mhong people, besides being a trading platform.
The Can Cau ethic minority market is not just a market in the meaning only. It is the main center for Mhong people’s selling, buying, social interactions and the meeting place.The Can Cau market offers any thing and everything necessary for the life of Mhong people, for cash sale. Among the items are food and beverages ( cooked and colourful varieties of rice, meals, fruits, vegetables, beverages including the local wine), clothes ( the traditional clothes with several parts attached), handicrafts produced by Mhong, other household goods, spices (chilies, medicines) and cattle. The household goods include all of the items in a Mhong home, some items brought from the neighbor, China. A large area in the market in for the sale of Mhong clothes, mainly for women.
The clothes made by old Mhong women are purchased by the young for sale on the market day. The women flock to purchase their clothes in the market, woven by older members of their clan. A part from handicrafts which is for the tourists, all items for sale in the market are significant for the Mhong people. The animals are purchased both by Mhong as well as others who come from other parts of the district. The sale of cattle and buffaloes is an significant cash spinner for the Mhong people, an activity undertaken when they need cash for house repair, furniture, to buy fertilizer for cultivating, etc. Buffalo husbandry is a popular livestock activity of the Mhong people.
Almost all visitors to the market are Mhong people- women, men and children – themselves. The young and old visit to sell, socialize as well as to purchase essential commodities. Almost all mothers carry their little ones to the market tied on to their back. The majority sellers and buyers in Can Cau market are the Mhong people, which gives it a red glamour.
A new trend in the market place is the increasing numbers of overseas tourists, both to experience the markets as well as to buy Mhong handicrafts. At present, a few Mhong women are seen selling their handicrafts to tourists, an activity likely to develop in the future. Most Mhong handicrafts can be purchased at the market for a fraction of a dollar. The wall decorator clothes are half the price for an identical price in other towns in the province.
The reasons of the Mhongs’ visiting market
The Mhong people visit market to purchase what they need in their living including food, spices, fruits, etc. Another reason is that they go to the market to sell anything they have, in excess of own consumption. Almost all the Mhong women carry something to sell in the market. The local wine is prepared and is sold by Mhong women themselves, leaving direct cash in their hands. A liter of wine is sold for VND 8,000 – 1,000 ( roughly US 50 Cents). The sale of several things such as cooked (and colourful) rice, spices, Mhong clothes, fruits centers on women.
The other function of the Can Cau market is examined in Mhong’s people’ socialization. This is a special place for them to meet and talk to their fellow members and friends every week. In the meantime, they enjoy food, taste new food items such as popsicles introduced from outside, and see what is around in the market place. It is a day way from hard work out in the field. Honestly, for the majority of Mhong people, visit to the market is an important activity in their weekly schedule. Almost all of the people including the women spend the whole day socialized and enjoying with their friends, out in the market. For some women, the visit to the market means walk across the difficult terrain about 3-4 hours form their remote villages and a similar length of time to return home, on mid-day, having spent the time at Can Cau market. It is likely that the Can Cau market has an significant function in organizing their annual Say Son cultural festival in Si Ma Cai that is held in the lunar month.
The Mhong sellers are confined to the outskirts, operating from temporary stalls or from no stall. The proper, mainly permanent stalls are occupied by other minority traders such as the Tae as well as the dominant Kin people. It is quite interesting to investigate why Mhongs do not want to occupy proper stalls in their market.
The necessity of improving the life of the Mhongs
The improvement of access roads will have a immense impact on the life of ethic minority people, especially those living in areas of difficult access. The roads in general will help bring in social services such as health and agriculture will have positive impacts on the minority people. The low level of the Mhong people’s interactions with the wider segment of the society makes it difficult to understand their culture and the needs. Investigations into their culture of assistance to help this minority people and what approaches are likely to be successful.
Observation of visitors and your comments (tourists)
The low level of contacts due to not being able to speak and understand Vietnamese between the Mhong and the people in the wider society, make them "invisible" to be approached by development programmes. Further, because of their tendency to aggregate within their own people, it is difficult to understand their culture and the needs from outside. In truth, there is only very first hand knowledge already known about the Mhong's livelihoods strategies and their social cultural aspects. There are many unknown about the Mhong's known to explain their goals and what in deed can be done from outside, without harming thier identity, needs, aspirations and livelihoods. This paper is the basic information that can help any one who is interested in the minorities in Sapa, visiting the Can Cau market will have better understand the minority people' customs, culture and life. It is a "what a pity" if you visit Sapa without visting the markets of the minority people.