Similar to Dong Xuan market in Hanoi, Dong Ba market in Hue and Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh city, Can Cau buffalo market is regarded as the pride of Lao Cai province.
The market opens every Saturday at Can Chu Su ramp of Can Cau commune, Si Ma Cai district, Lao Cai province. In the early morning, people in the district and communes in Bac Ha, Muong Khuong, Bao Thang, Bat Xat, even the locals in Sin Man district and Chinese flock to here.
When the harvest is completed in October, from adults to children and aged people are excited about the fair. The market not only attracts visitors from plain but also foreign backpackers. Although most of sellers and buyers are Mong and Giay ethnic people, the trade takes place in conformity to a manner of Dao people.
Can Cau market is divided into 3 sections of which the largest is for cattle trade: Cows, goats, horses are also sold at the market but the number is very less and the price is quite cheap compared to other places in Lao Cai. Therefore, Can Cau market is also called the buffalo market. Contrary to the imagination of a bustling cattle fair, visitors will only hear the murmur of negotiation and evaluation of buyers.
The mountainous locals are very honest, so there is no overcharge and bargain are between sellers and buyers. The business is carried out fluently. The buyers often consider carefully each buffalo before making a purchase. A good buffalo must have big strong legs with a solid spine, open horns, and tapering belly.
The price for buffaloes ranges from VND 6 million to VND 20 million, depending on their colour (black or white), sex (male or female), figure, and purpose of use (for working or killing). As the largest buffalo market in Northwest, nearly one hundred buffaloes are sold in each fair. Thus, only a few buyers fail in the market.
Despite not as popular as buffalo market, food and agricultural products areas are also visited by many visitors. The locals like to call the area is women’s market because most of the men gather in Can Cau market to buy buffalo or eat thang co (horse meat).
The most impressive feature of the market is colourful dresses for sale. You will certainly be surprised at complicated patterns embroidered on each dress. Some hand-made dresses taking one year to finish are priced VND million. Besides, visitors are easily attracted by jewellery stalls with a wide range of beautiful rings, bracelets, earrings…
Aside from thang co and corn wine, the market has plenty of food stalls. There is a dish like a noodle soup in Hanoi but the noodle is tawny and served with pork or broth from bones. Moreover, visitors will be able to enjoy delicious cakes made from corn, cassava and sticky rice.
Similar to other fairs, Can Cau market is also a meeting place of boys and girls. They go to the market not only for purchase but also for making friends. Therefore, Can Cau market is not merely trade place. It actually became a specific cultural feature of Northwest.